Our motto for The T&T Project is “wrapping our heads, hearts, and hands around the challenges of reintegration after incarceration.” That means that we have to learn about the challenges that returning citizens face, care enough about them to do something, then take action to make a difference. At the beginning of 2020, we were doing just that by offering a 12-week pre-release course at 2 different institutions and publishing a transition handbook for use here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Unfortunately, the rising pandemic brought our efforts to a screeching halt in mid-March when the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) temporarily suspended all volunteer activities in all of its institutions. While we are still eagerly awaiting the opportunity to resume our ministry behind the fence, we have been exploring other ways to continue carrying out our calling.
One of the first challenges that returning citizens face when being released is simply acquiring suitable clothing. When inmates are admitted to SCDC facilities, they are offered two choices: either have their street clothes shipped to a home address or donate them to the facility’s clothing closet. Years later when they are released, if the returning citizens don’t have family to bring them suitable clothes, they are issued something from that clothing closet. Clothing closets are often woefully understocked and returning citizens may not even find anything in their size. Transitioning back into society can be a daunting task, and not having clean, comfortable, well-fitting clothes dramatically increases the anxiety. Furthermore, not having appropriate attire for a job interview may be an impediment with long-term consequences. SCDC has no budget or stated requirement to provide suitable clothing to returning citizens so clothing closets at their facilities are almost entirely supported by donations from the community.
For more information or assistance in setting up a clothing drive at your church, please