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Friends, families of inmates get support

TERI VANCE

Like anyone, Xochie Rogers has dark moments when she wonders if her marriage will survive.

“It’s one of those days that I’m just frustrated with the whole situation,” she cried. “I love him a lot; I’m just tired.”

But her frustrations are not common to a typical marriage.

“I’m sick and tired of hearing a voice on the phone saying, ‘Your call will be cut off in 60 seconds,’ or that it may be recorded,” she said.

Rogers was married in September to a man in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center who has been in prison for nine years.

She worries that he won’t be paroled. She worries that if he is, he may return to jail. Mostly, she laments that she can’t be with him.

Not many people can understand her pain. But on Tuesday nights, she finds solace in a group of about 20 people who understand exactly what she’s going through.

Friends and Family of Prison Inmates meets weekly at the Sparks Christian Fellowship Church. Organizers are considering starting a group in Carson City.

“This is probably the safest place you can be for the position you are in,” explained facilitator Elaine Voigt, who had a son in prison and also married a former inmate. “We’ll cry with you, we’ll laugh with you. There isn’t anybody in this room who doesn’t understand what you’re talking about.”

Group members encourage one another to set boundaries – to not forget to look after themselves and live their own lives.

Teri Flanagan, who has been out of prison for three years, shared a milestone with the group.

She told about how she told her boss she would like a different position within the same company.

“That, for me, was a lot of progress,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that a couple of years ago. I feel like I just keep growing up. It’s a part of taking care of yourself.”

Two other former inmates announced they had found their first jobs since being released.

The group applauded.

Voigt said ex-prisoners add a valuable dynamic to the group.

“We’re able, as a family member, to ask you what goes on on the inside,” she said. “It helps us to understand what our inmate is going through.”

Longtime members offered their support to newer ones.

“Camille” attended Tuesday for the first time. At first, she didn’t want to speak, just listen – and cry a little.

But when another member talked about the anger she had to work through, Camille spoke up.

“I’m so angry,” she said through her tears. “If I could see him, I would kill him.”

She married her husband about seven years ago while he was still at Northern Nevada Correctional Center serving two life sentences.

When he was paroled a year and a half ago, she was waiting.

“He came out with a job. He had a home. I bought him a car,” she explained. “He had me. He had everything a man coming out of prison could want, including an ugly dog.”

But a week ago, he was caught driving drunk and tested positive for cocaine.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine he was doing drugs,” she said. “I know I should feel bad for him because he’s the one going back to prison, but I’m so angry at him for blowing everything.

“If he walked through that door right now, I wouldn’t kiss him. Well, I’d kick him first – and I’d kick him hard.”

Members of the group also speak with at-risk youth, telling them of the realities of prison life, hoping to deter them from making similar mistakes.

And, in helping others, they help themselves.

“It gives me a perspective of where I’ve been and helps me know where I’m going,” said Misty Martin, who has been out of prison for 15 years. “It helps keep me clean.”

INFORMATION

To become part of a support group for friends and family of prison inmates in Carson City, call 772-4641.

Contact Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or at 881-1272.