Workshop supports those with incarcerated loved ones

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CHAMPAIGN — Every day, hundreds of people sit in prisons and jail cells. It means many more family members and friends are left behind. But, there’s now a new resource to help with the struggles they face.

It’s not important who he is or what he did. What matters is Crystal Ranson loves him.

“I don’t know if you ever had that feeling or if you’ve ever been in love before, but it’s the type of love that just sticks.”

Even after nearly 18-years in prison.

“We decided, we’re going to ride it out. We’re going to stick it out, whatever issues we have, we’re going to face them together.”

Including raising their 17-year old son.

“He’s a great man and I know that if he had the opportunity to be in my son’s life, my son would be a different person.”

Ranson’s built up a support system of other women facing the same sentence.

“It’s a way for them to know that they’re loved and that they have support just like someone that’s on the outside.”

Forming those connections is just one purpose of a series of workshops aimed at people with family or friends in prison. They’re hosted by the Education Justice Project and State Representative Carol Ammons (D).

“When people are incarcerated, they don’t just disappear. When they return to our communities, we want to make sure the family members and the friends of those who are returning to the community have every resource to make sure their loved one doesn’t recidivate.”

They’ll talk about communication, education and getting ready for life once a jailed family member comes home. For Ranson, they’re empowering conversations for people on either side of jail walls.

“Not only for people that have loved ones to have a voice and to know that they’re not alone, but also for the ones that’s in prison also. They have a voice also. They matter too.”

The first of four workshops is happening at the Champaign Public Library. It’s free to attend; you don’t have to sign up ahead of time. Childcare will be provided. The next session is in April.

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