After laundering 1,800 bras, Central Maryland Correctional Facility inmates carefully folded the garments and placed them in boxes destined for Maryland women's shelters. The process was part of the "Bras for a Cause" event organized by Plaza Ford in Bel Air. For every bra collected in October, Plaza Ford contributed $1 to the Upper Chesapeake Cancer LifeNet.
"There are too many women dying from breast cancer and we're able to pitch in and help out," said plant manager Blake Haulsee. "Everybody has a mother, sister, or daughter. This is a way for the inmates to give back from inside the fence."
Ashley Lohr, an executive assistant at Maryland Correctional Enterprises, explained the laundry facility is part of the company's transitional readiness program.
"The mission is to provide employment and training activities to help prepare offenders for release. Participation in a program like this lowers the recidivism rate," Lohr said.
For many inmates, the jobs are the first 9-to-5 jobs they've ever had, Lohr said.
"The ultimate goal is to help them succeed when they're released," Lohr said. "if they're able to find employment, they'll be able to secure housing and support their families."
MCE acting marketing director Jillian Hughes said the facility donates their laundry services to the cause for free.
"It's just a way for them to do community service," Hughes said.
Bras for a Cause organizer Katie Walls said the facility reached out to her so they could participate.
"I thought it was a great idea that they were offering to help us out," Walls said. "The inmates might have done something wrong in their life to put them there, but that doesn't mean they can't help. A lot of the inmates have been affected by cancer. It helps them feel like they are helping out in some way. They can still feel included."
The laundering was poignant for the inmates who are part of the transitional readiness program and volunteered to participate in Bras for a Cause.
Inmate Rodney Henson said his mother is going through treatment and laundering the bras "hit home because it's something my family's going through."
"It's stressful for all of us," Henson said. "I call my mom every day to make sure she's eating right and taking her medicine. She's happy I'm doing this."
Inmate Ossie Wiggins said his family has also been affected by cancer.
"My aunt is going through it right now. She's fighting through it," Wiggins said. "It's hard with her being out there and me being in here. I'm wishing for the best outcome for her. I hope everything will be OK."
Inmate William Brehon said his aunt had breast cancer but "they caught it in time."
"You don't want to lose somebody that you care about," Brehon said. "I support the cause so I wanted to help."
Inmate Thomas Green said the laundering made him think about his aunt.
"She's a breast cancer survivor. It takes a strong woman to go through this and survive," Green said. "I'm just trying to show that I love and care for her by doing this."