To many low-income families wishing to visit inmates in the Federal prison located in Oxford, Wisconsin, the small rural town closest to the central Wisconsin prison might just as well be in Siberia. 12 miles from the nearest bus stop and 8 miles from the nearest motel, FCI Oxford is inaccessible by public transportation.
Mary House has been providing these families with shelter, meals, transportation and a friendly ear in a safe, respectful space since 1989 in the belief that children suffer enough during the incarceration of a parent without having to endure a lack of safety or comfort while traveling.
Studies show that preserving family structure through prison visits contributes more than anything else to the rehabilitation of inmates, helping offenders to persevere in the long struggle to re-integrate successfully into society after release. But without a place like Mary House, many families find it impossible to visit the prison, and for those that do the experience is often one of loneliness and isolation, especially for children.
The United States, with less than five percent of the world’s population, incarcerates fully one quarter of the world’s prisoners. 1.6 million, or one in every 32 American adults, is either in prison or on probation or parole. As a result, one and one half million American children — are growing up in households where one parent is away in prison.
Mary House provides families with dinner, a room for the night, and breakfast in the morning. And perhaps most importantly, Mary House provides the chance to talk with other families who are experiencing similar difficulties, and with volunteers who appreciate the efforts they are making to remain close to incarcerated family members.
Mary House is a non-profit charity based on the Catholic worker model of voluntary service. It is staffed completely by volunteers, and relies completely on small donations to remain open. It is a 501(c)(3) charity, and donations are tax-deductible.