BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
WEST BOUNTIFUL — It’s tough for people released from jail to get back on their feet.
Bountiful resident and real estate attorney Charles Allen has seen how difficult it can be with his own eyes.
For six months, he and his wife have served a calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, working with women incarcerated in the Salt Lake County Jail, teaching and counseling them and helping them once they’ve been released from jail.
What he’s seen has presented him with great highs and lows, and a determination to never give up on humanity.
“I go to addiction classes and see changes a woman has made and that’s a high,” he told members of the Bountiful Breakfast Exchange Club last week. “Then, I see a woman get released from jail, and repeat her poor decision making or return to her previous lifestyle. That’s a real low.”
“But I never give up on the homeless and helpless,” he said.
Often, the women he works with make many attempts to change their lives.
“One lady made the right choice and turned her life around after eight attempts,” he said.
The Salt Lake County Jail has an LDS branch meeting there, that meets on Sundays and Wednesday nights. They offer a Sunday lesson.
They also work with women whose release date is near to give them the tools they need to get back on their feet. Sometimes the women need a lot.
At the Salt Lake County Jail, inmates are released in the clothes they were wearing when they were booked. If they were booked during the summer and released in the winter, that may mean they leave jail wearing shorts, a tank top and flip flops.
And at the Salt Lake County Jail, they could be released anytime during the day or night. That poses another problem if an inmate is released at 4 a.m., he said.
The LDS Church assists the women it teaches in jail with finding employment and housing, if needed. Inmates in the program are given a mobile phone and a Utah Transit Authority pass once released.
Then, Allen arranges a trip to Deseret Industries for some new clothing. Often, the church also helps with medical and dental problems.
Beyond that, Allen has helped inmates reestablish their government identification through volunteer specialists. He also works with parole officers in helping former inmates find jobs and housing.
Often, society itself holds inmates back from making a new start he said.
He gave a hypothetical example of a woman released from jail who lives in Rose Park.:
The woman has a job interview in town. On the morning of the interview, she finds her clothes don’t fit quite right. When she leaves, it’s raining and she gets wet waiting for the bus. She then must transfer busses and that bus is late, making her late for her interview.
“The person waiting to interview her may take one look and think, ‘she’s been in jail and doesn’t care enough to get the job.’” Allen said.
“They go back to their old life,” he said.
Nevertheless, Allen holds out for those who do change.
“When you give the lessons on Sunday, you feel their sincerity, their hope and faith and feel a spirit as strong as anyone’s,” he said. “You love them, support the and hope the best or them.”