Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jean Auldridge, Longtime Director of C.U.R.E.-Virginia, Dies at 83

I emailed with Jean from 2009 until sometime in 2012 due to her health issues. I first met Jean at the 2011 Annual Virginia CURE conference in Stafford, VA as she was unable to attend the 2010 conference in Norfolk, VA where I was a speaker. 

She was a great advocate and a very special person, she will be greatly missed. 

For more about Virginia CURE and their upcoming 2014 Conference visit their site.

Mary Devoy

Jean Auldridge, longtime director of C.U.R.E.-Virginia, dies at 83, October 19, 2014
By Ellen Robertson

For 25 years, Jean Auldridge gave encouragement and hope to some of Virginia’s most forgotten citizens: prison inmates and their families. 

From 1989 until recently, she served first as director and later as president of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants-Virginia, better known as C.U.R.E., a nonprofit advocacy group with branches around the state. 

In failing health for five years, she died Oct. 10 at her Northern Virginia home in Vienna at age 83. 

Mrs. Auldridge learned about C.U.R.E. while working as an executive secretary on Capitol Hill to Sen. Robert T. Stafford, R-Vt., and met Charles and Pauline Sullivan, who came to see him. 

The Sullivans had been jailed in Texas while protesting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. “They saw the horrible conditions (that prisoners lived in) and founded C.U.R.E.,” said Mrs. Auldridge’s daughter, Judith Anne Fender of Falls Church. 

An initial member of the state chapter, Mrs. Auldridge applied 35 years of savvy in dealing with legislators and lobbyists to educate and influence Virginia legislators for what one friend called “fair and common-sense prison reform.” 

She dealt with issues including restrictions on family visits to prisoners, shipping inmates out of state, closings of prisons to direct media access, use of unnecessary force and abuse, geriatric parole, imprisonment past recommended sentences, access to health care, privacy of prison mail, telephone rates and restoration of voting rights. 

Not the type to lead protests, Mrs. Auldridge arranged for legislators to speak at C.U.R.E. meetings “where people came in mad and would be saying not-so-nice things to them,” Fender said. 

“She felt the only way change could be made was by having dialogue. She was good at bringing people together.” 

She fielded calls from prisoners and their families as well as letters, which she always answered with her own handwritten letters. 

Mrs. Auldridge also comforted people overwhelmed by the incarceration of their loved ones. 

“I remember that she invited over a woman whose son had just been sent to prison,” Fender recalled. 

“The woman was beside herself with hurt and upset. Through many conversations, my mother showed her that she and her husband could live again. There was something to live for.” 

Mrs. Auldridge “had a heart of gold, but she wasn’t naive,” Fender said. “Not everyone could be rehabilitated.” 

A believer in rehabilitation and preparing often poorly educated prisoners for their release from prison, “she worked a bit with re-entry issues,” Fender said. 

“She thought that only through close contact with family and friends could inmates become successful in society and that it was better if we didn’t treat them like second-class citizens.” 

She not only talked the talk, but also welcomed a released inmate into her home. The man, who lived with her family about three years, delivered the eulogy at the funeral of her husband, David Auldridge, who died in 2008. She also found living situations for at least three other released inmates. 

Born Mary Jean Williams in Washington, she grew up in Vienna and graduated from Falls Church High School. She worked on Capitol Hill from 1963 until she retired in January 1989. 

A family genealogist, she had been active in raising funds to restore Chapman’s Mill in Broad Run, once owned by an ancestor, and was a member at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, where a funeral was held Friday. Burial was in National Memorial Park in Fairfax County. 

In her final weeks, she received an outpouring of letters from those she worked so tirelessly to help. 

A death row inmate, who had been four hours away from execution and whose life suddenly was spared by an effort to which Mrs. Auldridge contributed, wrote, “I feel you made so many good and caring changes in so many lives that karma will be good to you.” 

Another man wrote, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your years of dedicated and selfless sacrifice and devotion to our cause. Without wonderful people like you championing our cause, we would not have a voice.”

Survivors, besides her daughter, include a son, John Robert Fender of Dillwyn; a sister, Harriet Williams of Matlacha, Fla.; a grandson and two great-grandchildren.