For about 10 years as her daughter spent time in and out of jail on drug charges, Connie Sneed felt nothing but despair.
“I felt as low as you could possibly feel not having any family other than my husband to confide in,” she said.
Sneed said if it weren’t for the support of a small group of women that call themselves the Circle of Love Sisters she wouldn’t have made it through such a difficult period of her life.
“I feel like I owe them my sanity,” she said.
Circle of Love Sisters is a local nonprofit organization that provides support for families that have been affected by drug abuse and to women who are incarcerated or just being released from jail.
“Our primary focus is on women who are incarcerated and are trying to incorporate back into the community,” said Doris Carlton, a founding member of Circle of Love Sisters. “We do what we can to get them back in the community.”
The group started as small prayer group for those impacted by drug abuse, but it quickly morphed into a true outreach program.
“From there the Lord turned our misery into a ministry,” Carlton said.
Carlton said there is a need for this type of support system for female inmates and their families.
On any given day there are as many as 150 women incarcerated in Murfreesboro, she said. Many of these women have children.
“They need emotional support,” Carlton said. “These women have no way of getting help. They are often levied with fines and fees. Sometimes they end up back in the system because they can’t pay the fine. Something has to end this cycle for them.
“If that cycle is not broken for them, then they go back to what they know,” she added.
Sneed said she benefited greatly from the Circle of Love Sisters’ bi-weekly support groups.
“They show you that there is hope,” she said. “They help you keep hope alive because you don’t see it at first. They keep encouraging you and encouraging you and the next thing you know, wow.”
Circle of Love Sisters conducts a jail ministry at the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center. They provide one-on-one mentoring, write inmates and provide hygiene products and clothing and provide job referrals. They also hold workshops and conferences for families.
The group is seeking partnerships in the community and hope to open a transitional home in Rutherford County.
Carlton visited Sneed’s daughter, Jamika, in jail every week for a year.
Jamika, who was in and out of jail from the ages of 19 and 29, said Carlton “opened my eyes to see things as they truly are.
“She shed light to what was going on in my life,” Jamika, 30, said. “She let me see there was another way. Her coming completely changed my life. I have been clean and sober for over a year.”
Jamika is now attending Motlow State Community College. In October she regained custody of her 10-year-old daughter who had been in the care of her grandparents since she was 3 months old.
“(Carlton) made me realize that being a mother was the most important role,” Jamika said.
Now, she is looking forward to the future.
Erin Edgemon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To get involved with Circle of Love Sisters contact Doris Carlton at 525-1412 or email@example.com.