If you are hurt, you will heal with time, sometimes a lot of time. If you are prepared physically, financially and emotionally for a setback, it helps; if not, your journey will be tough. So if your spouse or a family member breaks the law, is convicted and ultimately serves time, you become collateral damage and end up doing time as well. I’ve been there. It’s like being nicked by a razor, little stinging emotional and financial cuts; lots of them. You may grieve, get depressed, feel numb or get angry. The family budget could be toast and also your marriage. Any sense of normal and personal privacy is gone. Young children may act out, friends evaporate, you get snubbed and feel paranoid; can I trust you, are you a gossip, who is the enemy. It is not a healthy place to be. Why talk about this depressing scenario? Because it happens too often, but the good news is that you can get through it!
Can it get any worse, you bet. There are huge legal fees, unexpected tax liabilities, restitution lasting decades, cherished assets seized, time off of work to visit, funding a commissary account, exorbitant long distance phone charges, just to name a few; it’s real, it stings and it takes a long time to heal. This is not a victim impact statement; this is a spousal impact statement. Prison does not have to be a marital death sentence; there is light and hope at the end of the tunnel.
The old throw away the key mentality is not only discredited, but discarded by most; check out the attached article: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/police-prosecutors-reform-group/411775/ Sentencing guidelines are changing, prison reform is now a topic of mainstream dialogue, even Republicans and Democrats agree on this one. Outrageous long distance phone charges paid by inmates are being questioned and challenged. Phone companies who share a piece of this excessive revenue with local government are gouging a captive market; inmates who are just trying to stay in touch with their families. This is capitalism at its lowest.
If you are reading this blog out of curiosity or boredom, you have no family member or friend behind the wire, you may ask, why do I care? A broken corrections system releases thousands of broken inmates monthly. You or your child may have stood next to a released inmate in an elevator, at the convenience store, or at the doctor’s office; they may have nothing to lose, no hope; you should care.
Where is this going? If you know somebody who has a family member in trouble or in prison, they aren’t toxic, don’t treat them like a legal leper; they are isolated enough and under siege. Reach out to them, don’t preach out to them. What would you want people to do for you if you were in their shoes? Genuine compassion and empathy goes a long ways.
For those behind the wire, real substantial education resources and learning opportunities are becoming available, making license plates and training dogs doesn’t count.
Recently, an inmate debate team from the Dannemora State Prison in New York beat out a debate team from Harvard. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/why-you-shouldn%E2%80%99t-be-surprised-that-prisoners-crushed-harvard%E2%80%99s-debate-team/ar-AAfcLTQ?li=AAa0dzB
How about the Bard College Initiative where inmates get a serious education while serving time. Their recidivism rate is 2% versus 68% nationwide: http://bpi.bard.edu/faqs/ The cost of a college degree is far cheaper than housing an inmate for decades, it’s basic math. Sadly, most people don’t want anything to ever come easy for a felon, including a college education. Often it’s the streets versus commencement. The Bureau of Prisons can step up their game. The Recreational Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) is a weak shame based program that should be tossed; get cutting edge treatment that works, run by credible professionals, not guards. Finally, please check out the Crossroads Bible Institute http://crossroadbible.org/ and the Fortune Society http://fortunesociety.org/ each organization does absolute magic for inmates with a lasting impact.
What’s the bottom line? Hope is a catalyst to healing. There is life after prison, not just existence or failure. The American prison system is presently stacked against the inmate and by association, their families. The American justice system in America is slowly getting fixed, just in the nick of time; too late for my wife, but not for thousands of others. Sentencing overkill leads to taxpayers being overbilled. Paying your debt to society should not mean being punished forever. Hope, grace and forgiveness are three good short cuts to healing.