JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Wendy Hatcher Transitional Home for Women was named after Wendy Hatcher. She spent close to 40 years as the first female chaplain at Parchman Penitentiary.
“She commanded more respect than some of the officers ten times her size and height. She commanded respect, because she treated them humanely,” said Pauline Rogers with the R.E.C.H. Foundation.
Rogers said she was wearing a canary yellow jumpsuit the day she met Hatcher, who would change her life forever.
“So, when I met Wendy, she was like who are you? And I’m like Inmate 66743. And she said, who are you? And I’m like, Inmate 66743. By the third time, she said what is your name? And when she asked me that I just felt something cold go through my veins, when she asked me that, because no one had asked me that in months, a year, prior to my getting into the correctional system. I was a number and she asked me my name. So, I felt human again. So that was the start of our relationship,” she explained.
It’s a relationship that continues to this day. For the last 30 plus years, Rogers has worked to change the lives of the incarcerated and their families. She goes to the Mississippi State Capitol, not to protest, but to see change.
”We got House Bill 1352 passed, which allows for people with drug offenses to be able to qualify and be eligible to receive food stamps and TANF.”
Last year’s toy giveaway for children with parents behind bars was a drive-by, instead of the usual party, but it took place despite a pandemic. So did other events throughout the year for the children.
“These children are statistically cloned to be the next prison population, and we do these supportive services so that doesn’t happen.”
But this is what Rogers does and so much more. Like the letters from prisoners that never stop coming. All are read. All are answered. Files are kept on every man and woman given a life sentence in Mississippi. The three years she was in prison gave her a desire to make a difference.
“I saw hurt and pain and a lot of childhood trauma, hurt, pain, drug addiction. I saw all of that, and they were there, but they weren’t getting treated for the trauma, treated for the abuse they suffered, no treatment for the drugs. So, you just had all these people put together, like me, and I thought wow. And then I heard people say they had been paroled but could not leave because they did not have an address. I thought well, I’ll give you an address, so the seed got planted.”
That seed grew and grew for three decades.
“People ask us what we do, it just blows us away too. I don’t have a solution. I just treat people like I want to be treated. It’s just that simple,” said Rogers.
Simple, perhaps just like the question, “What’s your name?” asked by a tiny woman so many years ago.
“I tried to give back what I though Wendy Hatcher, what I received from her that she gave me and that was genuine human love and care.”