An inmate serving a sentence isn't the only person to feel the strains of imprisonment. While a woman's man is serving his time on the inside, so is she on the outside.

Often when a man is incarcerated, his woman's friends fade away, her neighbors talk behind her back, her children struggle in school, and she is faced with increased financial responsibilities. She may not be wearing a prison uniform, but inside she feels trapped, frightened and alone.

A growing number of local Christian women are doing what they can to help set those women free. Twice a year, members of Kairos Outside ("Kairos" means "the appointed time in the purpose of God") treat a small group of women whose partners are in prison to a very special weekend retreat.

"We just pour love into these people's hearts," said Heather, a Hesperia Kairos Outside volunteer who requested her last name not be published.

The focus of the weekend retreats is a series of talks by women who share their life's journeys. In between the talks is music, prayer and fun activities. There also is an ample amount of pampering.

"The camaraderie and the love is exactly what Jesus would want here on earth," Heather said.
The results are striking, even miraculous, according to Heather.

"To watch these women be so tense on Friday and then so open and happy on Sunday is amazing."
Five years ago, Heather decided to volunteer with the Kairos Prison Ministry after her mother repeatedly shared the emotional and spiritual rewards she was experiencing as a volunteer.
"I've never been so blown away in my life," she said of that first experience. "I haven't missed a single weekend since."

Over those years, Heather has traveled to Palm Desert to participate. Recently Heather and a fellow Christian woman, Jo, started a local chapter based in Hesperia.

According to Jo, a growing number of Victor Valley women have partners in prison. The Victorville Federal Correctional Complex consists of four separate prisons with an inmate population of more than 4,000. When the complex is completed, it will be one of the largest prisons in the United States.

But there is also a jail in Adelanto, which houses more than 700 inmates, which is expected to grow to 2,074, and the California State Prison in Lancaster houses more than 4,700 inmates.

Some women who participate in the retreat often come back and help as volunteers.
"They can share their experience, strength and hope with other women. There are lots of success stories."

But sometimes the truth isn't what they would want or expect.

"It might not be a fairy tale when they get out," Heather said. "Sometimes the relationship they're in doesn't work when he gets out of prison. But it's good that they learn it [at the retreat]. It's a dose of reality."

Not only does it take about 40 volunteers to put on the twice-a-year retreats, but it costs money too.

"We're looking at $7,000 a year for the retreat center alone."

Heather is also available to make presentations on Kairos Outside to local churches. A talented speaker who can answer many questions about the organization admits she doesn't have all the answers.

"I don't know how God does it, but He does."