The mission of Assisting Families of Inmates (AFOI) 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 help families preserve and strengthen positive relationships with relatives incarcerated in Virginia’s state correctional facilities. Through a continuum of direct informational and support services, AFOI helps families cope with incarceration and prepare for release and reunification.
AFOI was created in 1978 as a volunteer transportation program designed to assist Richmond area families visiting relatives in state prison. Until then, visiting was virtually impossible for low-income families as most state prisons are located in isolated, rural areas not served by public transportation. The initiative was led by Thomas A. Edmonds of Second Presbyterian Church who was familiar with the needs of prisoners’ families from earlier years of volunteering with a similar organization in Florida. Edmonds saw a need in the Richmond community and convinced other downtown area churches to join in by providing much-needed volunteers, personal vehicles and financial support. Within six years, the AFOI program was providing visiting day transportation to 15 state prisons, hot meals when family members returned from visiting, and supportive outreach services such as support group meetings and referrals to other community service organizations.
Today 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 organization
- 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
Last year Assisting Families of Inmates provided nearly 3,000 visits to Virginia’s correctional facilities for family members. We also provided thousands of resource referrals for our clients for housing, utilities, food, clothing, employment, education and medical services just to name a few. The overwhelming majority of AFOI clients are African-American, single women and children residing in the Richmond area. Over 95% of our clients served report annual income levels of less than $15,000.