Inmates chip in $1,900 to send 2 HIV-positive children to camp Women prisoners' benefit was second in two years

September 15, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Some of them make less than $1 an hour, but inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women gave $1,900 to help two children attend a camp for HIV-positive youngsters.

Their fund-raising effort was celebrated yesterday with songs, skits and dancing in the Jessup prison's gymnasium -- an event that evolved from what was planned as the inmates' second AIDS Walk-A-Thon.

About 15 percent of the approximately 800 women housed in the prison have tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus, 80 percent have been drug abusers and about the same percentage are mothers, with an average of two children.

"Our kids, your kids are the future of this country," Melanie C. Pereira, deputy state correction commissioner, told the more than 200 inmates attending the event.

"It's time for you to make a difference," she said.

In addition to the $1,900 donated by inmates, others connected to the prison, such as staff members, added more than $600 to the fund to send two children to Camp Heartland in Milwaukee for a week.

"They worked really hard for this," said Pam Norbeck, a social worker at the prison who helped with the event. "Some of them didn't know how much they were going to be able to donate. These women really have no money, but they gave what they had."

The fund-raising was the brainchild of former inmate Frances Mason, who started the program last year out of concern for society's treatment of those infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Prison donors contributed $2,453 last year for research into acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

This year, Mason, who is HIV-positive, said she was urged to use the money for the camp program.

"My overall goal is to have all prisons in the state of Maryland contribute to the AIDS walk," Mason said in an interview.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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