Diane has been a part of the FAMMily for years now. She is a tireless advocate for her husband, and she is a source of information, support, and compassion for many other families. Here is her story. UPDATE: Diane’s husband Eric was released from prison in April of 2021.
Growing up, I had ZERO compassion for anyone who broke the law. And who do I marry? Someone who definitely broke the law! But obviously my adult life has been enriched by this whole situation. We have a great family, and our love has only grown.
But back then, when I first met my husband, I’d meet some of his friends and he’d always joke with me, saying, “My friend is a great person. Really, he only did X, Y, and Z.” Then after I met them and spent time with them, I could never believe they had spent time in prison.
When my husband was sent to prison, I was paralyzed with fear. I was in shock and I had no idea what the whole thing was going to entail.
Finally I figured out the only way I could keep my sanity: I had to accept what is. It took me a while to accept prison, and I didn’t really talk to anyone about it. I am also committed to raising our son together to make sure he doesn’t become a statistic – so we’ve had to figure out how my husband can be a father from prison. I also knew I needed to maintain my job so I could provide for us, so I’ve really focused on that.
And then advocacy came in. Attending FAMM’s advocacy conference in Florida last year was life-changing. It set me on fire. Now I’m telling our story in the most effective way I can, I’m connecting with other family members for information and support, I’m pressing lawmakers and the BOP to do the right thing … This is what being a family advocate is all about.
In prison, my husband has done so many great things: He wrote a bible study that grew from a handful of men to over 40, and they meet weekly. He is an artist and he created his own study guides to hand out to the men. I have copies of most of them. He is known as a minister in there now and routinely ministers to men, young and old. He has taught education classes — GED, parenting, job searching, etc. He was also voted to be a mentor in the RDAP program and voted to be a speaker for the RDAP graduations. Also, he was trained as a first responder during his time at a federal prison in Texas.
A good memory I have that I will always treasure: During a family day visiting event in Texas, he and our son sang karaoke in front of the entire yard, which included the warden, the guards, and other family members and incarcerated men. That’s something I will never forget! He was dancing all around and having a ton of fun while encouraging our son to sing karaoke. I wish I could have had a video of that!
Since COVID hit and all our lives have changed, it’s terrible, and my fear has grown. That said, it’s made me stronger. I feel like my own voice has gotten more powerful. The past few weeks when I’ve spoken to people over the phone about this situation – lawyers, other families, reporters, BOP officials, advocates – sometimes I’ve heard myself talking and thought, “Who is this person?” I am proud that I am speaking with confidence now. I’ve spoken many times to the media. And I’ve helped get other wives in front of the media out here in California. There are times when I’m a bit scared, but then I think of the wonderful people I’ve met through FAMM and they give me confidence, especially women who going through what I’m going through. Together, we’re strong and powerful.
I’m ashamed of what I thought about people in prison before. Now I see the humanity behind those bars. I see all the wasted talent, intelligence, and kindness – wasted because of a criminal justice system that is broken. And I now see that it’s up to me – and so many other families, advocates, and lawmakers – to break that stigma, tell our stories, and fight for reform as long as it takes.
Be like Diane! Join our FAMMily – like Diane has, you’ll find hope, support, and a mission that really matters.