Prison B.R.E.A.K. is an acronym for Building Relationships Empowerment and Knowledge
This week’s article is very special to me. If you can’t tell by my annual Mother’s Day event, I love to show appreciation and gratitude to the mothers all over on their special day. Although every mother is different, they are all important to life and legacy. The woman that you call “Mama” may not be your biological mother and that’s okay. Every situation is different and it should still be embraced with love and care. Mother’s Day is not a day that’s looked forward to by all. For some, the day is a painful reminder of what once was and memories are just not enough to fill the void.
There are over 200,000 women in prison across the country. Of that number, it is said that nine percent will give birth while completing their sentence. That’s not even including the percentage of women who were already mothers before they went away. There are so many children of prisoners that walk the streets every day; living their lives without that special piece. I have met different young ladies and men who are surviving while their mothers are in jail. Some of these mothers in prison for breaking laws just to provide for their loved ones.
I recall a young lady telling me about visiting her mother in federal prison for Mother’s Day. She spoke of the strict time schedules, pat downs and seeing prison bars for the first time. What I took from her story was how happy she was. Even in those unpleasant circumstances, seeing her mom face to face is all that mattered. They ate frozen pizza from the vending machine and talked about the outside world and life inside prison. Even while in separate places, she still needed her mother. For many, just putting forth effort to try and being transparent is all that’s needed to easily support a parent in prison.
I have also heard stories that were not so pleasant. In many women facilities, Mother’s Day is a sad day. Not everyone’s families can afford travel for visits. There are women whose children are upset with them and won’t write or visit. These realities are truly heartbreaking. Granted, one rule of being a parent is to protect your children and that is hard to do behind bars. The feeling of abandonment is a normal feeling when a parent goes to prison. As we spoke about in “Innocent Bystanders”, feelings can become blurred in the mist of lives being turned upside down.
On the other hand, you have mothers who are forced to go see their children behind bars. Those women who have to be strong for their grandkids and push through the pain, while being the number one support for everyone. I remember when I was away my mom didn’t come to see me. I felt anger and disappointment towards her because of it. When I got out of prison, she simply told me she could not see me in that predicament. Even though I didn’t agree with her, my mother and had a great relationship until her death in 2011. I believe our relationship survived because of communication.
Mothers are the most beautiful people placed on this earth. Whether they are free to be with their child everyday or have to stay in touch via emails, phone calls and monthly visits; having a relationship with your mother is a blessing. To the mother in prison for trying to provide or protect her child, you are no less. To the mother who gave birth on prison grounds, you are no less. To the mother who missed your child’s prom and graduation, you are no less. To the mother who hasn’t gotten visits from her children in years, you are no less.
Convicts: If you are a mother in prison don’t forget your worth. Do all you can to be involved with your child(ren) while inside prison walls. Ask questions and come up with projects that require involvement from both parties. Stay in the loop with events and milestones, and show you care by sending affection their way. Don’t get hung up on sadness. Use that energy to promote positivity over your situation. Your strength and perseverance will motivate those around you to remain a light in a dark place.
Loved ones: Appreciate your mother. She is reminded everyday of disappointment and regret. Try to add sunshine to her days and show her that distance and bars can’t push out love. Talk to each other and find out what each of you need from one another. Being open and honest is a sign of love and respect and with both of those things failure is not an option.
To the mothers of prisoners, through the disappointment remain the mother and support your child needs. This may not be the most ideal situation but a time of stress combined with hurt is when your love is needed most. I’m not saying that your feelings don’t matter, because they do. I’m saying treat them how you would want to be treated. Show them care and try your best to adjust together. You will get through this battle together.
I would like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for all that you do. Enjoy your special day.
Dave Bishop is the founder of the nonprofit organization, K.I.T.E. Inc., Konnecting the Incarcerated Through Excellence. The mission of the organization is to provide mentoring and support to children, younger than 18 years of age, who live in urban, underrepresented areas, and have at least one incarcerated parent. K.I.T.E. facilitates programs dedicated to providing financial assistance, emotional and crisis counseling, and educational and life skills training.
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