“My grandma says I’m just like my mama.” Horror flashed across her face. “She’s at St. Gabriel doing ten years behind a drug charge.”
“Is that how you’re like your mother? What does Grandma say about how you’re like her?”
“Grandma says its it my eyes, and the way I walk and how smart I am.”
“Do you think you’re going to be going to prison just because you’re like your mom?”
She nodded slowly, eyes welling with tears, “If Mom is smart, why did she do what she did? What’s going to keep me from that kind of stupid choice?”
This exchange illustrates the particular abandonment issues that children of incarceration face. There’s loneliness and a hollow longing for the absent parent. But there is also a layer of embarrassment and shame. That fear of repeating the pattern often lays below the surface. It’s one of those beliefs that is often difficult to share with others.
Children of prisoners pay a price in other ways also. Having a family member in prison is an expensive endeavor. There are transportation costs in traveling to the facility for visitation. Plus, the cost of missed work hours for the person who is caring for the child. Visitation hours are rarely convenient. Emails and phone calls can be had at a price, and sometimes it is a stiff price. Prisons don’t supply hygiene products, so the prisoner must pay the high prices of the facility canteen. Many times, the relative who is caring for the child is also trying to pay the lawyer also.
Prison Fellowship and Kairos Prison Ministry go into prisons and share the hope of The gospel with the people who are imprisoned. They are both wonderful programs designed to help people’s hearts be changed by the love of God in Christ.
Kairos Prison Ministry also has a program called Kairos Outside. It is designed to help the women who have been impacted by a family member’s incarceration. I’d be interested in visiting with someone involved in this ministry. It seems like there would be tremendous opportunities to help families in practical ways. If you know someone who is involved in Kairos Outside, I’d love to visit with them. Please put them in contact with me!