November Coalition Focus on our Families
It is that time of year that we honor parents with cards, special contact and gifts. We do this in May and in June, mothers and fathers respectively. According to the NY Times, on any given day in America there are 7 million children who have one or both parents in prisons or on supervised release. Social experts are warning our prison explosion is ensuring the next generation of prisoners.
When a person is put in prison, they are asked a lot of questions, but one question that is not being asked and recorded routinely is this: Do you have any children? The hard data would be shocking no doubt; conservative estimates already are. On our race to become the leading jailer of all time, how many children are left in the wake, and what impact will this have on the country's future?
To answer that question, we need only to ask what is the impact of a parent's incarceration on just one child. The children we talk to, and the letters shared from their parents in prison suggest a deep rooted sadness. There is desperation, loneliness, abandonment, cynicism and confusion. As the child matures, the feelings multiply.
The wife of a drug war prisoner told me that her little girl asked a guard in the prison waiting room, "Can't I just take my daddy home for dinner? We promise to bring him right back."
According to this recent article in the NY Times (Apr. 7 - As Inmate Population Grows, So Does a Focus On Children): "There is no free lunch in this business," said Lawrence Sherman, dean of the University of Maryland's school of criminology and criminal justice. "If you increase the number of people arrested and sent to prison, you may actually be creating another problem. There is a multiplier effect."
Allen J. Beck of the Bureau of Justice Statistics told the Times that the link between the generations is so strong that half of all juveniles in custody have a father, mother or other close relative who has also been in jail or prison.
It is easy to do the math; we have 3 million future prisoners and that number is rising fast- faster than any nation on Earth.
This issue we have a special focus on parents, those that live behind the wall, those who have a child in prison, and on the children themselves. They would like to share their stories with you.
Dorothy Gaines received a 19 1/2 year sentence based solely on the testimony of others. There was no physical evidence. Her son, Philip, sent this letter to her sentencing judge.
Brady and Hunter
By Jackie Quarterman, Prisoner of the Drug War
(Brady is Jackie's brother; Hunter is her 11 year old son.)
Both being put to the ultimate test.
A hidden purpose that we'll all grasp someday.
Having in common the Gemini, and an enormous heart.
Daily overcoming obstacles, as they open each new gate.
Their patience growing as they adapt to the pace.
Conquering chaos, none of this trip was planned.
We look at Brady and Hunter, and can't help but feel,
The medicine to help all our wounds start to heal.
By Warren Wake, Prisoner of the Drug War
The last time I saw my daughter was in the Spring of 1989. We lived in different cities, as she being raised by her mother. I was supposed to visit her late that August, mainly to buy her new clothes for the upcoming school year.
On August 24th, the government changed all of that: I was arrested for cocaine conspiracy. Even if I had been granted a bond, I could not have made my date with my daughter, as all of my money was immediately stolen (confiscated) by the DEA.
I will never forget that call to my 12-year-old, Crystal. After I explained the trouble I was in, she asked, "Can't you just tell them that you are sorry?," hoping that Daddy could get out of jail.
Her naivete broke my heart.
Later in the conversation Crystal finally asked, "Are you going to be able to buy my school clothes this year?"
"No dear, I'm sorry but every penny I had was taken the day I was arrested."
So much for 'innocent until proven guilty'.
Since then, Crystal has graduated from high school. She has been married, had a child, and been divorced. I have not been there to answer her questions or to help her financially. Due to distance and lack of money, we are not able to see each other.
My earliest release date is 2013. I
try to keep my bitterness in check, for now.
Rockefeller Drug Law Vigil
William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial
Artwork by a Prisoner of the Drug War