Several months ago, a woman — who sleeps close enough that I can hear her quiet cries in the night — lost her son. He was 16. Without the stability, support and daily guidance from his mom, he became so hopeless and desperate, he committed suicide by hanging himself. Thousands of children have become lost in the foster care system, to drug or alcohol abuse, destructive relationships, gangs, depression, and the criminal justice system itself. This isn’t about me; it’s that gut-wrenching image of a desperate young boy hanging from a rope because he couldn’t bear the loss of his mom that should prompt everyone reading this to get behind women’s prison reform.
I haven’t wanted to look at the scars borne by my own daughters from wounds caused by our separation. As my time to return home draws nearer, I’m having to come to terms with the damage my absence has caused. I think of my own mother, who was my rock. I remember the countless times she saved me from disaster in my teenage and young adult years, the sense of safety and security I felt just knowing she was right there with constant love, support and guidance. I realize today that the grief I experienced when my mother passed in 2011 is the same unrelenting grief my daughters have had to live with mourning my loss these past 6 years. My girls have struggled valiantly to put on brave faces and proceed with life. I am well aware that the day I return home, they will be freed in another way — free to let down and breakdown. This is something I’m preparing for. Mothers help their children make sense out of this world. We teach them about love, about God, values and relationships. We help them navigate life’s ups and downs, to make good decisions, and to grow them into self-confident, good people. When mothers are sent off to work camps to be warehoused, the punishment isn’t limited to us. We have to find solutions that will benefit and not break our communities. — Andrea A.