reconnecting family

My blog post of 9/7, pulling the jail card, sparked a moving response from a sibling of one of the ‘inside’ women writers.  Within the writing circle, JL wrote about the “marvelous error” it has been to land at Chittenden Correctional Facility to provide her with necessary reflection and regrouping time.  Her family member writes:

 “…a very interesting piece my sister wrote.  Although I have not had direct communication with her since her ‘card was pulled,’ my hope for her grows as I see an acceptance that had not existed even 6 months ago.  I would like to thank you for posting this piece.  And thanks for giving my sister a voice and for helping me see that it is time to reach out to her once again.”

The writinginsideVT blog was envisioned as a vehicle for connecting imprisoned women’s words to the larger society and educating the public about incarceration issues.  I must say we did not anticipate the possibility of providing a reconnection point for individual families.  Wow.  A most humbling revelation this day.

On another note, I decided to expand upon my 8/29 blog post, mom’s in jail, and craft a commentary for Vermont Public Radio about children of the incarcerated returning to school.  Back to School aired yesterday morning.  Click “Listen” and enjoy!

Mom’s in jail

First Day of School by Steve Wilhelm

I settled my son into his 4th grade classroom this morning, as part of that familiar First Day of School ritual.  I helped him unload a mountain of school supplies from the plaid Burton backpack we purchased together last week—an early birthday present that cost way, way too much money for my tastes.

As I departed the cheery school environment, I thought of the children of incarcerated parents who begin a new school year today alongside our children.

In 2011, according to Vermont DOC Facts & Figures, 40-percent of incarcerated women (and 28-percent of men) were the parents of minor children.  (Those numbers seem low to me based on my experiences of writing with inmate women.)

Anyway, add to the scary feelings of new teacher and classmates, the reality that your parent is in jail and unable to buy you a new pack of Crayolas, for example, or meet you at the afternoon bus drop-off.  This child enters school with a serious stigma through no fault of his/her own.  It’s not hard to envision the trauma such an experience wreaks on a developing child. Continue reading