CHARLOTTE, NC – Changed Choices is a different type of faith-based organization than those usually featured in Missions Box News. Perhaps that’s because its mission field is currently entirely within Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Or perhaps its because its mission field is one that is far too often neglected, regardless of where the need is present.
According to its website, Changed Choices exists so that women who have experienced incarceration may lead restored lives marked by healthy decisions, self-sufficiency, and contribution to their communities.
Changed Choices is “helping women build new lives beyond prison walls.”
Unique among prison and prison-release programs, Changed Choices offers its assistance to women as soon as possible following their incarceration in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center. The women being held are typically broken, afraid, and lonely. Facing potential prison sentences, many women become motivated to change their ways, but they do not always know how to effect the changes necessary to do so.
The Changed Choices ministry began in 1999 when Ruth Snyder began visiting two women in the detention center. She envisioned the need for a ministry that would come alongside these women and others like them as they walked toward an uncertain future.
Ruth recognized that a successful journey to spiritual and emotional health and a productive life needs to begin at the beginning. Releasing the women from their spiritual prisons was a higher priority than waiting for their release from their brick and mortar cells.
Prison inmates nearing or at the end of their sentences are usually motivated by the thought of “Get me out of here.” Those awaiting and at the time of sentencing are motivated by “Help me get through this.”
So, Ruth created the COOOL (Changing Our Outlook on Life) and CARE programs (Comprehensive Approach to Re-entry Effectiveness) that begin with supporting their “clients” confined within the justice system.
COOOL is a mentoring program for women while they are being held in the Sheriff’s Office Detention Center.
CARE 1 provides correspondence with a Pre-Release Care Manager, a pen pal, a Bible Study coach, card writers, and, for some, provisions for basic needs.
CARE 2 supports clients as they return to the community. Our Re-entry Care Manager and volunteers provide the tools and resources the women need for successful independent living in our community, such as housing, employment, and family reunification.
Changed Choices’ support system of building caring relationships, counseling, educating, mentoring, faith-building, chaplaincy, and parenting and life skills have proven successful over the last two decades of recidivism rates.
- 31% of women released from North Carolina prisons are re-arrested within two years.
- 36% of women released from federal prisons are re-arrested.
- Only 5% of women who have processed through the Changed Choices CARE program are re-arrested.
Changed Choices presents Jesus Christ and models His love as Christians should to those who need healing from heartaches that have accumulated as a result of previous choices.
Regardless of where you live, you can support Changed Choices through prayer. Or you might consider volunteering to become a Pen Pal in their CARE program. Click here to learn more.