Families Visit Prison

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It’s estimated that 45% of inmates have no contact with their families while they are serving time. But research also shows that inmates who stay connected to their kin can be six times less likely to be arrested again. That inspired one church in Tennessee to help nurture relationships by bridging the miles between people. Kim Riemland (reem land) reports.  

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(Locator: Nashville, Tenn.)

Nat/Entering visitation room: “Hey, everybody!”

It’s been almost a year since Lisa Woods has seen her niece and nephew. But a church is keeping them connected.

Once a month, vans from Concord United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee make the three-hour trip to state prisons in Nashville.

DeaunTray Woods: “It’s fun to go see my auntie because she thinks of the fun things to do.”

Eight-year-old DeaunTray (dee-ON-tray) Woods is going with his sister, mother, and grandmother.

Phyllis Woods/Prisoner’s Mother: “I love her much, and in spite of all that’s happened, I still need to keep in touch with her.”

And families usually have a lot of catching up to do.

Nat/Deauntray and Lisa sing: “Now I said my ABC’s. Next time won’t you sing with me?”

Nat/Mother: “Yeah, that’s good.”

Some of those who ride in the church vans can’t drive themselves or can’t afford high gas prices for the trips.

Elaine Wynn/Volunteer, Concord United Methodist Church: “They're sort of forgotten folks, in many ways. And I feel that it's our duty, our responsibility, to recognize them as human beings.”

Lisa could be away from her relatives for eight years, as she serves time for drug convictions.

Lisa Woods/Prisoner: “Every family has their trials and tribulations. But I feel like being able to see my family gives me a drive to keep going on.”

Van driver Jim Miller says the prison van ministry started 20 years ago to help keep families whole.

Jim Miller/Volunteer, Concord United Methodist Church: “When an individual that’s related to other individuals goes into one of those institutions, everybody goes in to one of those institutions.”

The Woods family is thankful that Lisa is in rehab and trying to turn around her life.

Nat/Talks with sister: “Be good. Stay out of trouble.”

Lisa Woods/Prisoner: “It keeps us focused on being able to see our family again. It gives us faith. It gives us hope.”


To learn more about the prison van ministry at Concord United Methodist Church, contact 865-966-6728 or check their Web site at