A Message to Parents
from the Mother of a Prisoner
When my son first went to prison at the age of 17, I thought my life had come to an end. I cried almost every day and couldn't even bring myself to go in his room without breaking down. I was angry at the world and angry at myself for not having seen what was going on and most of all for failing my son-- or so I believed. I found support (www.newyorkinmatefamilies.com) by accident while looking for information about what I could or could not send to my son. The first thing I learned from reading was that if I was going to make it through this I had to stop thinking like a victim and start doing something to change all the things I was mad about. One of the website members said maybe what we do seems like throwing pebbles-- but enough pebbles make a rock. So any little thing we can do chips away at the things we believe to be wrong. We need to get involved with projects like the Campaign for Telephone Justice. Maybe we can't always be on the monthly conference call or at the different meetings but at least we are doing something to try to make a change.
I also realized that if I was going to be able to help my son stay out when he gets home, I had to learn as much as I could about the system and what he was going through. Knowledge is power and as long as we accept what can't be changed, we have the responsibility to try and change what can and should be changed.
We know it can be difficult to be the parent of someone in prison, no matter what his/her age. While having many of the same concerns as those who have other loved ones in prison, some of our concerns are different, and the age of our incarcerated loved ones also strongly influences us. We may wonder (more so than others) if there was something we missed, something we could have done to prevent what happened. We need to deal with the past and move on to the concerns we have about our son or daughter's present and future. If they've never held a job, how will they ever get one when they come out of prison? What type of education/training can they receive so they will have a better chance at employment when released, especially if they have never had a full-time job? With limited access to our son or daughter, how can we continue to "parent" or offer guidance, especially if they are still relatively young? Are they around other inmates who will have a positive or negative effect on them?
We have so many conflicting feelings and may feel paralyzed to feel anything--or think rationally--or even get up in the morning. But it gets better with support, other parents and prison families to talk with, support groups and retreats for those of us who can attend.
Call Prison Families of New York to make life better for yourself, your child in prison and the rest of your family.