Some might see entering a prison as a scary experience. Volunteers with the Match 2 Prison Visitation Ministries see it as an opportunity to help bring friendship and hope.
Linda Crabb of Sequim has been visiting the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.
“For the two years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never felt unsafe and I don’t have any hesitations or fears of it,” Crabb said.
She’s forming a Christian women’s group to go with her to Gig Harbor once a month to meet up with other women from local churches. They are matched with a female inmates with similar interests for one-on-one visits of about two hours.
An informational meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2, at Calvary Chapel Sequim.
Crabb has met with two different women, one of whom she was matched with because they have similar backgrounds in the legal field and like to camp and hike.
She said it’s not uncommon for inmates to have next to no visitors.
“Another woman I had met had been in there 1½ years without a visitor,” Crabb said. “These women have made bad decisions and their family and loved ones will cut them off.”
Crabb said most conversations are about life and challenges just like with any other friend.
“I got a letter the other day telling me what a blessing it was to have someone with her on Mother’s Day,” Crabb said. “She thought she was going to see her mother, but she didn’t come. So our visit and talking made the day much better.”
Joanne Wilkinson, a Match 2 group leader from Grapeview, said she’s been going for 11 years.
“We display a successful lifestyle to the person and show them consistency and keeping our word and being dependable,” Wilkinson said. “We’re someone they can count on to visit and write.”
Wilkinson has visited with several women since first going. Her current match has a life sentence and she’s visited with five other women and corresponded with two of them who were sent to other prisons out of the area.
For safety, letter correspondence is sent to a P.O. Box in Snohomish so no personal information is given out.
“We are blessed to be a blessing,” Wilkinson said. “We are blessed by visiting these women and it’s a lot of fun.”
As a Christian visitation program, Crabb said Bible studies happen sometimes and she always brings her Bible. She and her current inmate read the same daily scripture devotional.
“We only see each other once a month, but as we go into our morning devotional I know she’s reading that when I’m reading it,” Crabb said.
Once a group forms, Crabb plans to leave at 11:45 a.m. the second Sunday of each month for the 2-4 p.m. visitations, time she said flies by fast.
Once screened to be a visitor, some rules apply: a modest dress code, no gifts or money given, and more, but Crabb said they are easy to follow.
“This isn’t Disneyland. This is prison,” she said. “They give you scenarios for what could happen and how it’s handled.”
About eight women participate from churches now and the prison has a waiting list of inmates. Crabb said both of her matches waited for more than a year to participate.
Statistics show prisoners in this program have a much higher rate of success in staying out of trouble, Crabb said.
“I look at this as one afternoon a month and have to say I have received as much from my inmates as I have given,” Crabb said. “I’ve learned a lot of life lessons and seen through the toughest of circumstances they can be a victor.”
For more information, call Linda Crabb at 831-454-6654 or e-mail Lcrabb@ymail.com.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.