The mission of Assisting Families of Inmates is to provide opportunities for regular, meaningful visitation, referrals to community resources, and other services that help families cope with incarceration and prepare for release and reunification. We strive to prevent the breakdown of relationships among inmates and their families by providing regular, meaningful visitation, support, referrals and education services. Our programs help families and loved ones throughout the period of incarceration and also prepare families for a successful transition when the inmate is released from prison back into our community. Assisting Families of Inmates is one of only a handful of such programs to provide these services in Virginia and across the United States.
Our services include:
- A Transportation Program providing reliable visiting-day transportation on Saturdays to many Virginia prisons, correctional centers, work centers and juvenile correctional facilities
- A hot meal when buses return at the end of the visiting day, coordinated by our dedicated volunteers and partnering groups and organizations
- Individual and group services that help families cope with the emotional and survival issues associated with having an incarcerated loved one
- Assistance to families, and inmates, with resource referrals to other agencies that aid with education, legal issues, reentry, housing, employment, transportation and childcare, etc.
- Information on prison rules and regulations including visitor approvals, visiting procedures and proper dress code policies
- Consultation on the issues surrounding children with an incarcerated parent and their caregivers
- Consultation with other organizations, including the Department of Corrections, on programming for children impacted by parental incarceration and family reintegration with regards to reentry
- A Video Visitation Program which provides the opportunity for families to visit with their incarcerated loved ones via video conferencing technology in seven areas of the state and with 17 prisons in partnership with the Virginia Department of Corrections
- Collaboration with other community organizations, human service providers, faith-based organizations and local and state government on reentry efforts within the Commonwealth of Virginia including the Governor’s Virginia Adult Reentry Initiative and the Richmond Regional Reentry Council
- Many opportunities for community involvement through volunteering.
Who do we serve?
Last year AFOI provided nearly 3,000 transportation visits and hundreds of video visits for individuals to Virginia’s correctional facilities. For the majority of our clients, Assisting Families of Inmates is the only means by which they can maintain regular, supportive contact with their incarcerated relatives, family members and loved ones.
Why are these services important?
Quite simply- because they are important to the families. AFOI families report that visits allow them to spend time together with their loved ones as a family discussing life events and planning for a more hopeful future. A visit for a mother and her incarcerated son relieves worry and concern. A visit for a child and his incarcerated parent encourages important parent-child bonding. A visit for a wife and her incarcerated husband strengthens a lifelong commitment. And, as equally important, we know that their visits have a positive effect on the offender’s behavior while in prison and after release back into the community. In fact, research supports the fact that inmates who receive regular visits are more likely to have a higher incidence of success after release; thereby lowering recidivism rates and increasing public safety.
The Virginia Department of Corrections has previously estimated that there are over 5,000 families affected by incarceration in the Richmond area. This number represents a significant portion of our community’s population struggling with effects of a loved one’s incarceration.