Advocacy Corner: Holidays in Prison

Amanda Cassidy (Reentry Advocacy Fellow) had the opportunity to connect with Hannah Overturn and Debbie Brinker with Syndeo Ministries to learn more about their organization and how they are working to inspire hope into women currently within the TDCJ system. They currently serve more than 10,000 women across 17 units in a variety of ways from providing Bible studies and penpals to holiday hygiene care packages and a discipleship program for post-release. 

Amanda Cassidy: What are the Syndeo Ministries? 

Hannah Overturn and Debbie Brinker: ​Syndeo Ministries is a non-profit organization focused on helping women who are incarcerated and transitioning out of prison. Too often women who are convicted of crimes are forgotten by everyone, including their own family. We are compelled to remember and be a demonstration of Christ’s love. Without a support system, these women often feel hopeless. Our goal is to change that dynamic so they can flourish! We feel called to achieve this goal by; “Remembering those in prison as if we were bound to them.” (Hebrews 13:3)  The term Syndeo is a Greek word meaning bound with them. This word has two meanings: 1: bound as one prisoner is to another and 2: bound, connected in heart, as all should be!

A.C.: What was the catalyst for its inception? 

H.O. and D.B.: In 2006 Larry and Hannah Overton fell in love with a little boy at their church. His name was Andrew.  Andrew was a foster child that the Overtons felt a great desire to provide a home for and to “become his forever family.” He would be their sixth child, an addition to their five biological children.  A few short months later tragedy struck and their world was turned upside down.  Andrew went home to be with Jesus when he passed away from a rare medical condition called Hypernatremia. This condition caused very high, fatal levels of sodium in his body. This sorrowful tragedy was compounded when Larry and Hannah were accused and charged in Andrew’s death.  

On September 7, 2007 Hannah was convicted of capital murder and sent to a maximum security prison for life without the possibility of parole for a crime she didn’t commit. This would leave Larry at home to care for their other 5 children. During Hannah’s time in prison God not only held her and her family in His hands but also used this trial in mighty ways.  After seven years of imprisonment, Hannah was exonerated and all charges were dropped on April 8th, 2015. On May 10th, 2017, Hannah was declared actually innocent! During this span, many have come to the Lord and the ministry is continually growing.

A.C.: I understand that you all organize holiday care packages, how do these packages help the recipients? 

H.O. and D.B.:The ladies cry when they receive the hygiene items. Due to COVID there is a huge shortage in hygiene items for things like shampoo and soap. Even the unit issued lye soap supply has been depleted. So it is vital that our ministry and others like us help these women get basic necessities such as soap, shampoo, and even hair ties. 

A.C.: What are your needs now and how can someone help? 

H.O. and D.B.:They are working on building a Discipleship school and are very much in need of a van for transportation and due to COVID they are unable to buy hygiene items in bulk. They are always open to having additional pen-pals and they are looking for donations to help buy supplies for the Christmas in White 2021.

For more information on how to volunteer or donate, visit their webpage: Christmas in White 2021. 

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The Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable is collaborative promoting safe and healthy communities through effective reentry and reintegration of formerly incarcerated persons and individuals with criminal histories in Austin/Travis County, Texas.

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