Unacknowledged Victims of the DOC
I wish I had more time in the day to write about prison issues. Ever since I found so many wonderful and supportive sites, I have read so many things from concerned loved ones about their loved ones.
I have shared many entries from my journals to help open a door about what goes on in prison. One thing I have seen consistently is people who are extremely worried about their loved ones, and don't know what to do. I thought about this and wanted to add my "two cents" worth to help, if I can.
Many parents are experiencing very heavy burdens for loved ones in prison, many for the first time. Whether in youth camps or in max prisons, many are experiencing the feeling of helplessness. It might feel like someone just snatched your baby from your arms and prevented you from even looking at him as they whisked him away behind tall concrete walls. There are at least 2 angles I want to share about not knowing what to do; the initial prison feeling, and problems while in prison.
The first shock of prison is what every parent faces. You know that there is nothing you can do to bring him back today, or even tomorrow. Even if you had differences with your son, he is still your son, and you love him and would do anything for him. But now you can't do anything. That is a very difficult feeling and a very painful one. In no way do I want to compare this to the feeling of losing a loved one to death, but it is a very close feeling. But when you are in this situation, and don't know what to do, try to put this in that perspective.
Yes, it hurts, and it might feel like you son died, but he still has his life. That is a far stretch, but at this point you must grab something positive. It may not even come the first day, or the first week, or the first month, but you have got to grab that thought. If your son has a few years to do, he will be home in a few years. If your son has a lot of time, you know that it will be awhile before you will see him free, unless you are appealing the case. If so, then by no means do you give up, even if it takes years. For those who have children doing much longer terms, the pain may take a long time before you can have it under control. But you have to find that strength.
You life has to go on, and your family, and whether you know it or not, your son who is in prison NEEDS it to go on. He is already dealing with the shame and persecution and the guilt on himself; if he thought you couldn't make it, it would destroy any hope of going on. Some inmates have no one left in their life to care for them, and with that attitude they in turn could care less for anyone else. These are the examples of guys that would attack an officer or another inmate; there is no need to care.
But even if he has a lot of time to do, his life is still worth something. You have the ability to still contribute by continuing on in your life. This applies whether you son has 1 year or 90 years; life is still worth something.
I think I wrote a thread on one NC forum called "first views of prison". It tells how I felt when I first went to prison in NC. I have since added several threads, to try to show what life is like; it is not always about what you see on TV. But when you don't know what to do, you have got to find support for understanding and strength, and you have got to find positive things to hold on to, to get you from today to tomorrow.
The second thought, when you son is having troubles in prison, is also difficult. If your son scraped his knee, you would treat it. If he got in a fight with a bully at school, you would look into that situation. If he had any problem, your mother instincts would take over to protect him. But now, in prison, those instincts don't seem to apply...or do they?
When your son has something happen in prison, or has troubles, and you don't know what to do, there are indeed some things you can do. The first is RATIONALIZE. Moms can at times blow something out of proportion, even if it is just to protect their child. This happens far more than you know. People call the prisons every day for trivial things, and this has dulled the sensitivity of many prison officials. Mind you there are many very important things to call the prison for, but sometimes parents call for less than important reasons. When you don't know what to do, calm down and rationalize the situation. Think it though, step by step. What happened? Why is he in trouble? Why does he think he is in trouble? What will the prison do to help? What CAN the prison do to help? How can my son defend himself in this situation? All these things lead to the second thing you can do, which is something all parents should be doing...LEARN THE POLICIES.
I say that because I assure you, more rules are broken by officers than you know. Some are ignorance, some are deliberate, but a rule is a rule. If an inmate breaks a rule he is punished, many times without delay. If an officer breaks a rule, many times it is ignored, often denied. If parents knew the rules of the prison, or DOC, they would be armed to defend their child if something happened. Think it kinda like school; teachers often send information about certain things of school to keep parents aware of the rules; prison does not do that. If your son called and told you that he got a write up from an officer for questionable reasons, and if you knew the procedures of write-ups on the camp or for DOC, you can find out if that officer violated procedure and could take action in areas you son could not. The problem here is some believe that inmates should learn to deal with their own problems, and there is some truth to that.
You have to be a man when you are in prison (even youth camps). Inmates can go running to the phone to mom every time they have problems. If I was a mom, I wouldn't want my son doing that either (not EVERY time). But the fact in prison is clearly that prisons will not honor their own word, and because of that inmates are cheated their rights many times. Someone has to help them when the prisons will not. When you don't know what to do, relax a bit, rationalize the situation and know the rules so you will know what steps to take. That might mean research, that might mean checking the library or the internet, it might mean calling a lawyer for advice, it might mean posts. But whatever it is, it gives you a sense of direction and purpose. It is far, far better than crying in bed wondering what to do.
None of this is easy, for some it will be much harder than others, but what I am trying to show is that even though you are going through some very difficult times, there are things you can do. You don't have to feel helpless, even if you strike out on some things. You might be doing fine after 6 months of your son in prison, and one day it might crash on you like a ton of bricks. If it does, that's ok. Cry, let it out. He is your son, and you miss him. But after you have grieved, find some way to get your strength back. You need it; he needs it. No one said it is wrong to cry or grieve over your son, but if you grieve every day, you end up being chained to the problem, thus hindering your life. Difficult days are on nearly every person with a loved one in prison, but through this site, and others like it, we can find ways to gain strength, and go on.
This was a post I wrote awhile back, which got a lot of responses. As in many of my posts, I try to help people understand that that HAS to be hope. I know how bad things can be, but if there is no hope for a person, then that life is lost. I urge you to hang in there if you know of a person you care about in prison.
My thanks for taking the time to read my petty thoughts. I try to write other prison issues and my thoughts at http://gradesofhonor2005.blogspot.com/
if you are interested in reading more. My greatest wishes to you.
If you have advice for the families,
Contact me, Kay Lee ,
2683 Rockcliff Road S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30316