Those with loved ones in prison find help.

prison-ministryGroup offers discussion forum

By Shellta Dalton, Times Picayune Contributing writer.

The Rev. Becky Conner, pastor of Algiers United Methodist Church, knows what its like to go through the pain of having a loved one in prison.

“I’ve been to court and I’ve been to jail to visit,” she said. “I know what it’s like to walk through the fire. So, I feel that I’m personally and professionally able to offer something.”

That’s one of the reasons Conner started a support group for those who have loved ones in prison.

The group’s main purpose is to give participants a forum to openly and confidentially discuss their fears, struggles and concerns.

“The idea is to offer a safe, confidential setting for people to be able to talk about the struggles they go through with having a loved one in prison, the issues that are involved and also have a spiritual component to it,” she said. “It gives people an opportunity for support and understanding and lets them know that other families are going through similar things.”

Conner said she was motivated to form the group because of the void she saw in the community.

“The idea came about because I’ve been running into individuals who have loved ones in prison and there’s still a stigma in our culture that causes people to shy away from talking about it with a loved one or a friend,” she said. “There’s no place for people to really talk about it without being embarrassed.”

She said the experience of going through the court process with a loved one can take a toll on family members.

“When families have to go through court experiences when someone’s arrestedmany times it’s nearly one or two years before their case comes to trial, but the family goes to court sometimes 10 to 12 times in those two years,” she said. “So, walking into the courtroom over and over again is very stressful for families.”

Conner reiterated that the group is completely confidential.

“We do respect that it’s confidential and anonymous; no one has to fill out any papers and they don’t have to give their name, address or phone number,” she said. “As a pastor, I keep confidences. We as a group covenant together at the beginning of every meeting that what is shared, we do not repeat in the community.”

The group is not only for Algiers residents but to all who are interested. Meetings are held every first Wednesday of each month from noon to 1 p.m. They are held at Algiers United Methodist, 637 Opelousas Ave., Algiers Point.

For more information, call Conner at 504.256.8989.