children bearing children

Credit: harrisonstainlesssteelrat

One of the pathways to crime and eventual incarceration for women includes growing up in a family that has been impoverished for generations.

It’s not surprising that as the woman’s teen years approach, she experiences a deep desire to leave this environment, particularly if it has been chaotic or dysfunctional.

Then as so many ‘inside’ women write about, along comes “baby” a short time later, providing a great blessing to her, but also a supreme financial burden for a young mother with an incomplete education, undeveloped job skills, and a fractured family system.

Here’s a piece scribed by CS this week that details this pattern:

In nine months my adult self would be born…

When born, you cannot determine
how you will be raised.
For me, it was within a carnival scene,
so alive and adventurous,
it would leave you amazed.

I had to grow up fast till the age of 16.
I left my home a long time ago,
tears running down my face as I ran out the door,
and all I wanted was for you to follow me,
‘cause without you felt so empty.

Brought up by a man of alcoholism and abuse,
he brought me down so far,
I thought, “what’s the use?”
So I thought if I could change, I would.
I searched in all the wrong places,
at parties and bars, and all the wrong faces.  Continue reading

grieving together

Grief by Tessa Maurer

We learned of the death of one of our former writers last evening.  K had been released from Chittenden Correctional Facility a short time ago.  Her central aims were to beat her addiction and be reunited with her children.  Tragically, her addiction won out.

Last evening’s circle of 13 writers provided a life-affirming, sacred space in which the women could process the loss of their friend and write about their own addiction fears.

By happenstance, three of K’s longtime fellow writers were back ‘inside’ due to probation violations, so they too were able to process her death in the healthiest of ways–within the womb of supportive community.  It was a rich session in which one woman gave thanks that K was now free of this great burden.

K was wide-eyed that addiction was her downfall.  She wrote about this on more than one occasion.  Here is the last piece she wrote with writinginsideVT:

BEAUTIFUL BABIES

It’s hard to believe I have two beautiful babies. Who would ever know considering that I, their mother, do not care for them the way mothers do. I, a selfish, rotten, junky, drug-addicted mother, care more for drugs than my children. I know what you’re thinking, “How can a mother be so heartless?” And I can’t answer you! I know it’s a awful thing, but at least I can admit it. I wish it were not true. I have lost everything and didn’t care, but I tell you now–there is only time left to care about my children and not myself, and that means doing what it takes to keep my family together.

Our prayers and positive energy go out to her children.

the caging of America

..that’s the title of Adam Gopnik’s Jan. 30th piece in The New Yorker.  Definitely worth reading.

A few poignant take-aways…

About prison“It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prison unendurable for inmates.”

About incarcerated women – “..whatever they have done and whatever punishment has been meted out affects their family much more than it affects them.  Many provided the sole source of support for their family..by removing their income from the equation, their families suffer.  Rent or mortgages can’t be paid, older children lose their chance at an education, extra jobs must be taken on..”

About mass incarceration in America – “The moral failings of advanced liberal societies..tend to be slow-motion sins….We allow the atmosphere to be filled with greenhouse gases; we allow the hypertrophic growth of inequality; we let the prison population grow to the size of a megalopolis.  And the key is that there’s no particular moment when they happened, no single event to expose and decry.  It’s the slow-motion violence of mass incarceration that enables it to elude our moral immune system.  Prisons stop time.”

stranglehold addictions

The majority of Vermont’s  incarcerated women struggle with serious drug and/or alcohol addictions.  These stranglehold addictions fuel criminal activities and prevent them from creating healthier lives.   Even doctor-prescribed drugs such as Suboxone and Methadone, used to treat their addictions, increasingly become abused substances.

Here’s one incarcerated woman’s reflection from last evening’s writinginsideVT circle.   K.H. writes about what her addiction has cost her:

It’s hard to believe I have two beautiful babies.  Who would ever know considering that I, their mother, do not care for them the way mothers do.  I, a selfish, rotten, junky, drug-addicted mother, care more for drugs than my children.  I know what you’re thinking, “How can a mother be so heartless?”  And I can’t answer you!  I know it’s a awful thing, but at least I can admit it.  I wish it were not true.  I have lost everything and didn’t care, but I tell you now–there is only time left to care about my children and not myself, and that means doing what it takes to keep my family together. 

recognizing impacts of incarceration on children

Last night, the ‘inside’ women-writers wrote about an unexpected bonus or something we never dreamed could happen in our lives.  Interestingly, a number of women shared inspiring stories about becoming mothers and raising children!

Here’s a snippet from D.S.:

I made choices knowing that the end results could send me to jail.  ..feeling like I would be the only one serving the time, when in reality my children are also serving my sentence from the outside.  As my stay comes to an end, I am totally aware that all the choices I make affect my whole family.  My children deserve much more..and need my love and support and time in order to grow.