Prison support group comes to Carson City | NevadaAppeal.com
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Prison support group comes to Carson City

TERI VANCE
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Nelton and Elaine Voigt speak with a new member of the Friends and Family of Prison Inmates support group at the First United Methodist Church on Wednesday. The group will meet every Wednesday in Carson City.
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She considers the women in her bowling league her friends. But there’s one thing she keeps secret from them.

“I’ve never let them know I had a son in prison,” she confessed. “I get the feeling if I told them, they would look down their noses.”

Elaine Voigt is familiar with that shame. Her son, Tony, was released from Nevada State Prison six months ago after spending nine years behind bars.

She found ways of avoiding the answers that would betray her secret. She outlined the conversation she had so many times.

“I’m having lunch with my son Saturday,” she would say.

“Where does he live?” would be the follow-up question.

“In Carson City.”

“What is he doing there?”

“Oh, he’s going to school. Living with a bunch of guys.”

“You just touch on the outer edge,” Elaine explained.

Two years ago, Elaine started a support group, Friends and Family of Prison Inmates, for people suffering in similar circumstances.

This week, she and her husband, Nelton Voigt, opened a chapter of the group in Carson City.

One woman attended the meeting at the First United Methodist Church on Wednesday evening, but asked that her name not appear in print.

However, she hopes more people will join the group.

“It would be good to be able to talk to people,” she said. “It’s really hard especially because I just moved here.”

For now, she’s happy to be able to talk to the Voigts.

She told how her son was just given 15 months in “the hole,” or solitary confinement.

Nelton, who has been out of prison for almost two years after serving nearly 23 years off and on, offered her his perspective.

He also spent time in solitary confinement. Although he agreed it was miserable, he offered some hope.

“It’s also a time when God can talk to you,” Nelton said. “You can get to know God in there. It’s just you and him.”

Elaine and Nelton were introduced by Elaine’s son, Tony, who met Nelton while they were serving time together in Nevada State Prison.

Nelton was released in November 2002 and the two were married in April of the following year.

Nelton is organizing TRIP, Transitional Reintegration Program, a support group to help inmates adjust to life after being released.

“They need more than $21 and a bus pass,” he explained.

And the Friends of Family of Prison Inmates support group is giving a presentation to National Cooperative Extension in Missouri and may become a national organization.

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