I'm a Prison Mom - Part 2

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    So, you might have read my first article, When Your Adult Child Makes the Headlines….for the wrong reasons, well, here’s Part 2...

    I'm a Prison Mom - Part 2

    I was browsing the blue side of AN recently and came upon my article from a couple of years ago when this was so raw and open. Thought I would give an update. Did you know that the US has the most incarcerated citizens per capita of any civilized nation - says something about us as a nation, doesn’t it?

    I’ve learned a lot over the past 2 ½ years since I wrote the first article. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

    Lawyers are expensive! When we started this journey, it was recommended that we hire a private attorney. So, off we go to interview. We interviewed a total of five practices for a total of seven lawyers. We called more but several didn’t return our calls or emails so we quickly crossed them off our list. We were quoted anywhere from $5000 to $130,000 for a plea deal. Rehashing the details took its toll too. In the beginning, we cried in their offices, towards the end, we could recite the details without a tear.

    It really truly matters WHERE you commit a crime. If you commit a crime in a large city, the punishment is similar in most instances. However, if you commit a crime in a small, rural county where crime is uncommon, the penalty will be much more severe.

    Visiting in jail, behind glass is impersonal at best. You go in, sign up for a time, then return to your car to wait - whether that be 15 minutes or 2 hours, you sit in your car and wait your turn. When the time arrives, you sign in, and get assigned to a phone. You know now to bring in bleach wipes to wipe down the phone, and immediate area as it is always filthy. Your loved one is led in, handcuffed and shackled and he picks up the phone and you start your very stilted visit thru glass. During your visit you are surrounded by four other visitors who may or may not be happy to be there - you hear arguing, yelling, cursing, crying, sobbing, anger, sadness, many emotions flood the tiny visiting room. All too soon the 15 minutes is up and you must leave.

    Our judicial system is S_L_O_W - it takes months (and can take years) before a trial or plea bargain is negotiated. Trials are expensive, plea bargains are expensive too but more in terms of emotions:

    • Plea bargains are like games between attorneys only the pawns are real life people
    • The accused’s attorney throws out a number, then the DA counters with another number and back and forth you go.
    • The families/prisoners go along for the roller coaster rider: first its 18 years, then 15, then 12, then ? and finally the number is set.
    • Truth in Sentencing - another topic for discussion. These laws were enacted to prevent early release for certain crimes. It means that what you are sentenced to is what you WILL serve - there is no “good” time, no way to reduce the sentence.

    Aw - so probably the worst day of my life was sentencing. You go into a very austere, wood-paneled courtroom, filled with people you don’t know, media is sometimes present, the victim (if any), and the accused’s family. They bring your loved one in chains and handcuffs, shuffling along like in the movies only this is REAL. They look pale and disbelieving.

    The judge reads the charge and then states the sentence…”I sentence you to x-amount of years in the Department of Corrections” and bangs his gavel. As his Mom, I’m just numb, the tears flow, not just sad little quiet tears either, but big, messy loud sobs. My son is led away by the bailiff still pale and disbelieving. Our lawyer leads us to a quiet room so I can stop my sobbing and manage to get to the car without falling.

    Its over - no more courts, no more lawyers - we are onto the next step in this journey - prison.



    References:

    The Caging of America
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    About traumaRUs, MSN, APRN Admin

    traumaRUs has '20+' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Nephrology, ER, ICU'. From 'Midwest'; Joined Apr '00; Posts: 51,147; Likes: 23,933.

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    16 Comments

  3. by   margin261
    Trauma- my heart goes out to you, your son & your family. I can't imagine how difficult this must be for you all. Try to take care of yourself.
  4. by   traumaRUs
    Thanks - it is hard. We have been on this road for almost 3 years now with over 4 more years to go. My point though is not to garner sympathy but rather to bring up a very uncomfortable topic: incarceration, prisons, criminals.

    What do you do with people that break the law?

    I've learned so much on this journey: truth in sentencing laws are insane. They came about in the 1980's when the "tough on crime" movement was in favor. Is it time now to consider "second chances" for those who committed a one time offense

    Should they be locked up forever? At a cost of over $25,000 per year this seems unreasonable. And rehab is nonexistent. My son has sat on his bunk for almost 3 years without anything to do: no classes, no job, nothing.
  5. by   margin261
    I'm not familiar with the 'truth in sentencing' laws. Is that in a particular state or applies to certain crimes?
    It seems to me there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to the criminal justice system.
    I thought the point of incarceration, especially those that aren't on death row or life without parole, was rehabilitation. Providing counseling, rehabilitation & educational opportunities. If that isn't offered, how is rehabilitation supposed to occur?
    Mandatory terms with no time off for good behavior seems ridiculous for first time offenses - I say that without knowing what crime was committed.
    I still feel for the families- especially the parents. They seem to be in a worse position, filled with grief & anger- at the child and the system and still having to carry on, business as usual everyday when it's anything but.
  6. by   StNeotser
    I really dislike the plea bargaining system and quite believe it is as you describe, a game between attorneys. If everyone exercised their right to a jury trial the court system would collapse.

    I think that any education or rehabilitation programs have taken a huge hit due to the amount of incarcerated people and the Federal and state prison system simply can't afford to pay for them.

    Thanks for your post, traumaRUs. You have highlighted that it is not only the incarcerated that suffer but also the families. I wish you and your family well.
  7. by   traumaRUs
    Truth in sentencing laws are just that - what you are sentenced to is exactly what you serve.

    So, you are sentenced to 10 years, if you are subject to TIS law (which certain crimes are in all states), you will serve either 100%, 85% or 50% and in most cases you are not eligible to receive any time off for classes, jobs, etc..

    And...if sentenced under TIS laws, again very dependent on the state, you may not EVER be eligible for ANY class, ANY job, ANYTHING except to sit on a bunk for the x-amt of years to which you are sentenced.

    I have learned so much during these few years - much of what makes me physically ill. There is NO rehab, no ATTEMPT at rehab, no nothing.

    Did you know that up to 95% of ALL people incarcerated in the US will eventually walk out those gates into society? How will they get a job - if you have spent 20-30-40 years behind bars you've never seen a cell phone, a computer, know how to fill out a resume online, etc..
  8. by   cardiacfreak
    My step-daughter is that child. I have went through every emotion you have and will.
    (((HUGS)))
  9. by   traumaRUs
    @cardiacfreak - I'm sorry. I truly feel for you. Its hard. Feel free to PM me anytime.
  10. by   Tweety
    I've been so out of the loop and had no idea you've been going through this. Thanks for sharing your truly raw emotions.

    I have some very strong opinions, especially about incarcerating people for drug offenses that Nancy Regan and her cronies established in the war on drugs...but I won't go there.
  11. by   BCgradnurse
    ((((traumaRus and cardiac freak))))
  12. by   traumaRUs
    @Tweety - thanks much.

    @BCGrad - thanks also.
  13. by   CBlover
    Friend,

    I am a new mom with a 9 month old son. Before he was born, parents would tell me that there is nothing like being a mom. And they were exactly right. Cherish is not a strong enough word for the love I have for my son. It's an "unexplainable" feeling. I get this pit if I read about a car accident or hear something in the news that tragically happened to a child. Of course, I always have, but having a son of my own, it's a pit I get that I can't even explain. I guess it always hits home more that none of us are invulnerable to those types of tragic things we don't even want our minds to touch, much less think about.

    I can't imagine your pain. All we can do is raise our child the best we know how and just pray God does the rest. I can't even begin to wonder how deep your sadness was seeing your son marched away like that. I don't know you personally, but please know my little son and I will pray for you and your son each night at bedtime.

    ((Hugs)),
    CB
  14. by   CryssyD
    Quote from traumaRUs
    Truth in sentencing laws are just that - what you are sentenced to is exactly what you serve.

    So, you are sentenced to 10 years, if you are subject to TIS law (which certain crimes are in all states), you will serve either 100%, 85% or 50% and in most cases you are not eligible to receive any time off for classes, jobs, etc..

    And...if sentenced under TIS laws, again very dependent on the state, you may not EVER be eligible for ANY class, ANY job, ANYTHING except to sit on a bunk for the x-amt of years to which you are sentenced.

    I have learned so much during these few years - much of what makes me physically ill. There is NO rehab, no ATTEMPT at rehab, no nothing.

    Did you know that up to 95% of ALL people incarcerated in the US will eventually walk out those gates into society? How will they get a job - if you have spent 20-30-40 years behind bars you've never seen a cell phone, a computer, know how to fill out a resume online, etc..

    And even worse, when people have no prison job, they can't earn any money, learn no skills, and have nothing to do but become angry, depressed, and so bored stupid that they will sometimes act out violently just to get some attention, some human contact, a change of scenery. And if you have neither a job nor family to put money in your account, you can't buy things at the commissary--if you need something, you have to barter for it, sometimes with "services" that no parent wants to think about; there can be medical consequences, too--when your family has abandoned you, and you can't get a job, you can't buy any supplemental (junk) food at canteen, so if you're a brittle diabetic you may find yourself getting pulled back from the brink of death by hypoglycemia over and over and over again--and all the nurses know that one day it will be too late. It's infuriating.

    Then, when they get out, along with no skills, in many states there are amazing laws like: if you've been convicted of a drug-related felony, you aren't eligible for food stamps. I wish someone would explain the connection between committing a certain (often non-violent) crime and the resulting right of the state to allow you to starve. Employers and landlords can legally discriminate against you based on nothing but your history of being a felon. And I won't even start on felons losing their voting rights with no way to ever have them restored in a number of states--which is completely unconstitutional.

    The entire criminal-justice system in this country is broken, but unless it affects them directly, most people just don't care. It's important that people who know the truth educate others at every given opportunity. Thank you so much for your stories, traumaRUS--they so need to be heard.

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