Jamaill never knew his mother. When he was 1, his father was incarcerated, and Jamaill got to know him largely through letters and phone calls. Twice a year, he would trek from Brooklyn to an upstate New York prison to visit — a trip that involved a plane ride, a long drive and an overnight stay in a motel.
Now, the 10th-grader’s father has been transferred to another prison even farther away. So they’ll stay in touch with “televisits,” video-conferenced meetings. Jamaill doesn’t think it should be so hard for kids to see their imprisoned parents. And that’s what he told New York state legislators in March.
“Incarcerated parents need to be closer to home,” said Jamaill, 15, who lives with his grandmother and doesn’t want his last name used because he doesn’t want to further stigmatize his father. “Some people have to drive nine, 10 hours to see their parents — and then only have 30 minutes to talk to them.”
Many states are beginning to look at a growing body of research that shows that having a parent behind bars can have a destabilizing effect on an estimated 1.7 million children like Jamaill. The separation can have costly emotional and social consequences, such as trauma and trouble in schools, homelessness, and bigger welfare and foster care rolls.
We have to build some very strong walls around our marriage to keep it from being inundated due to levee failure. Our word for today from the Word of God, Malachi 2:15, says this about God’s view of our marriages: “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Or the husband of your youth, for that matter. How can we do that? For starters, we can build five walls that to keep your marriage strong. Each marriage “levee” can be summed up in the form of five ironclad commitments that can protect your lifetime love. Continue reading “Storm Proof Your Marriage”
On a crisp February morning, Eshawn Page drops off her 13-year-old son, Amir, at school, gets into her silver Volkswagen and begins her biweekly 45-minute commute to visit her husband. Driving past snow-dusted mountains, Page, an optimistic woman with a perfectly symmetrical face and high cheekbones, is in a cheerful mood. Just the day before, two men were exonerated for three murders they did not commit. The men, Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson, had spent more than two decades in prison. Page’s husband, Jermaine Page, is in year 18 of a life sentence for a murder he similarly denies committing. “They locked up my husband based on a coerced confession and untrustworthy witnesses, just like they locked up those men,” says Eshawn as she approaches Shawangunk Correctional Facility, an all-male maximum-security prison. Eshawn’s family, like so many others entangled in New York’s criminal-justice system, is optimistic that the new Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, will deliver on his campaign promise to revisit convictions marred by prosecutorial and police misconduct in the 1980s and 1990s. The two recent exonerations give Eshawn hope that her prayers will finally be answered.
Eshawn pulls into the parking lot of the prison, which is located on a barren stretch of land just west of the Hudson River in Ulster County, N.Y. She walks up to a door marked “visitors” and enters a foyer that resembles a post office, save for signs on the walls instructing visitors, in all capitals: “no cell phones” and “no weapons.” A woman recognizes Eshawn and waves to her; they inquire about their husbands as if passing each other in a grocery-store aisle.
Eshawn is given a key for a locker, where she deposits her coat. She’s already stashed her valuables in her car trunk, knowing she can’t take anything into the prison, not even a piece of paper or a pen. Another visitor walks by and jokes, “If you need someone to watch your money when you go for the visit, just let me know.”
Eshawn laughs and begins filling out the required forms — name of inmate, prisoner ID number, visitor’s car model, plate number, relationship to prisoner and “reason for visit.” A mother and her two children enter the facility, approach the guard and go through the same silent ritual.
After completing the forms, Eshawn removes her neon pink Nikes and large hoop earrings, then walks through a metal detector as if boarding a flight. On the other side, she collects her belongings and expectantly holds out the back of her hand for a guard, who stamps it with a serial number in invisible ink. He is courteous and helpful. “Different guards treat you differently,” she said earlier. “Some are nice, but others are mean and will give you trouble.”
More than five million U.S. children have had a parent behind bars at some point in their lives. Those parents collectively represent lost workers and contributors to our communities and economy. But more than that, for each of those five million children, that missing parent represents missed bedtime stories, hugs and reassurances of well-being and affection that every kid deserves.
Although substantial reforms are underway to address our over-reliance on mass incarceration, these reforms will take years to turn the tide. At the same time, criminal justice debates often overlook the devastating toll our policies and practices have taken on the children and families left behind — and on their communities. State and local policymakers, courts, correctional systems and community agencies can take several steps right now to help ensure these kids and families have the stability, support and opportunities they need to succeed.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch tours a factory where inmates work at the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Ala. on April 29, 2016.
The nation’s top law enforcement officer walked past a barbed-wire fence, through passages lined with rust-colored walls, to meet with a special audience. But this was not a normal meet-and-greet — a stern-looking FBI security detail tracked her every move.
Inside the visitation room in this federal correctional institution, five men in khaki uniforms and black Crocs slippers were waiting to give Attorney General Loretta Lynch a glimpse of their struggles.
“Just because we’re locked up doesn’t make us bad people,” says Tony Moses, 47, a self-assured, tall man who’s locked up until January 2041 on armed robbery charges. “We just made some bad choices.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch chairs the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, which works to identify the barriers to successful homecoming for “our formerly incarcerated family members,” as she said it on April 7, 2016.
The U.S. Justice Department, as part of its attempt to ease the transition from prison to homecoming, has designated the last week in April as National Reentry Week.
“From job fairs to family day, to father-daughter dances, to mock interview programs, all the ways in which we can provide the support so that our brothers, our sisters, our fathers and our mothers — so that when our fellow Americans leave these institutions, they can truly, truly find their way home,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said