After her son was incarcerated a few years ago, Linda Davis of Clinton said she began to feel emotions that were too strong to bear on her own.
The co-founder of Loved Ones of Prisoners Ministries (LOOP), Davis described visiting her son at prison as “the most uncomfortable thing in the world.”
After doing research, Davis discovered that there were many programs in Northeast Ohio area for prisoners’ reentry, which are programs that help them re-adjust to living in communities. But she found there were very few support groups for families of current prisoners, especially in Portage and Stark counties.
“I decided we’re going to have to start from scratch,” said Davis.
Davis shared her story with the members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Portage County in May. The group meets at downtown Kent offices of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.
Davis and her husband Edwin both quit their jobs to start LOOP in 2012. Last year, she spoke to all the prison chaplains in Ohio. This year, Davis plans to have LOOP posters in each Ohio prison in order to reach out to their families.
“Through no fault of your own, someone in your family can go to prison,” said Davis. “No matter who it is, you have to support them 100 percent. At LOOP, we’re all supporting someone incarcerated.”
As a way for family members to find their own support, they can attend LOOP meetings on the first Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. at Hartville Church of God, 532 West Maple Street, Hartville. Meetings will start at Ravenna Church of God in the fall.
LOOP meetings are a way for families to share the burdens of what they are going through with other families in similar situations. Davis said at the meetings, there are only two guidelines. No one is allowed to share why their loved one is in prison. Second, what is said at LOOP, stays at LOOP.
“At our meetings, we go around the room and share how we’re doing,” said Davis. “At LOOP, we try to show love and compassion. There’s no judging.”
Around 50,000 Ohioans are incarcerated. According to Davis, LOOP was founded to be a place for all the hurting families. Through LOOP, Davis also offers emotional support and extensive information about the rules and regulations of the prison system.
“We all have baggage. We all have someone who did us wrong, or we did wrong,” said Davis. “The most important thing is how you’re doing with it. That’s really what [LOOP] is about, helping one another.”
For more information about LOOP, visit their website at www.loopfamilyministry.org.
NAMI Portage County meets the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, 7 p.m. at the Mental Health & Recovery Board, 155 E. Main St., Kent. NAMI Portage County is a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness whose members include persons who have a loved one with mental illness, advocates and persons with mental illness, all working together at the community, state and national levels to improve the quality of life for those with mental illness and their families. The group’s website is www.namiportagecounty.org. You can find NAMI Portage County on Facebook.