By Lonnie Ross
Bicycles, dolls, basketballs, footballs, children’s computers, games, toy cars, hats, gloves, socks, t-shirts, stuffed animals…the variety and number of gifts in the room seemed endless. And, the sponsors are giving them all away.
Dr. Carl M. Reddix, CEO of Health Assurance, LLC was joined by Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Christopher B. Epps, Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adams, and Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison at a press conference Dec. 16 in a room filled with gifts for the children.
The staff of the private company will begin personally delivering the gifts Saturday, Dec. 21, to children of more than 150 families in Washington, Issaquena, Bolivar, Leflore, Sunflower, Rankin, Pearl River, Hancock, Madison and Yazoo counties.
“Because women tend to be the caregivers in their families, being separated from their children this time of year is especially difficult,” Epps said. “Therefore, when Health Assurance, with whom MDOC has had a good working relationship for more than 10 years, came to me and said it wanted to do something for the kids of some of our female inmates, of course, I said ‘Go ahead. We will be glad to support you.’ We want to connect and reconnect inmates with their families as much as possible.”
Case managers at MDOC facilities and officials at the Pearl River and Hancock counties’ jails helped identify the women to receive their permission to include their children in the gift-giving.
Toys were collected from vendors with whom Health Assurance has a working relationship. Item after item including bicycles, an assortment of games, dolls, stuffed animals, backpacks, small computers and electronic items packed a room at Health Assurance’s office based in Select Specialty Hospital-Jackson, 5903 Ridgewood Road, in Jackson.
“We did not expect the level of excitement we got,” Dr. Reddix said. “We have had toys coming from everywhere.”
The goal is for each child to receive three toys – small, medium and large.
Dr. Reddix said Health Assurance wants the incarcerated women to know its employees care. “Incarcerated women are among the most difficult populations in corrections – both for correctional health service providers and security administrators,” Reddix said.
“Hopefully this expression of family support for these incarcerated women will strengthen their commitments to rehabilitate and transform into the “models’ our society needs.”
“Showing inmates that you care about them goes a long way,” Epps said.
Allison said, “Kid’s suffer when their parent, their mother is incarcerated.”
Epps, Adam and Allison praised Health Assurance for their effort.
According to Dr. Reddix, this is the “first time this has been done.” They are anticipating that a lot of children will be surprised.