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I'm a Prison Mom, 5.5 years Down, 2 more to Go

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traumaRUs is a APRN, MSN, and Community Manager for allnurses.com with over 45 years in experience.

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Wasn't really sure I wanted to write anymore of this saga but then figured, "what the heck" and so here I am....

I'm a Prison Mom, 5.5 years Down, 2 more to Go

My son has now been incarcerated for well over 5 years with 2 more to go. I recently came in contact with our expensive lawyer from the first part of this journey. Just a casual meeting and we exchanged pleasantries - he asked how we were doing and I did the same. I told him that this has forever changed our lives as far as the state of incarceration and prisons go but that we and our son are doing as well as can be expected. He seemed quite relieved and said that he often thinks of us and how he wished it could have turned out differently....and I agreed with a tight smile. I think he did his job to the best of his ability; its just a shame what it has cost us and I don't mean money either. 

The stress of having a child, even an adult one, in prison is very high. The stress for his child is even more - he misses Dad so much. Taking a child to prison is difficult: they must sit quietly while the adults check in and then they must sit quietly until our name is called, go thru the pat-down and then finally proceed to the visiting room. 

In the visiting room, the child must sit quietly and not be too loud, they can't make anything that might be interpreted as against the rules, no peace sign as it could be interpreted as a gang sign, no whistling as it has many different connotations in prison, no pointing as that is offensive and considered intrusive, no speaking with other children as that is considered cross-visiting and strictly forbidden. They can go up to the vending machines and purchase food/drinks but must be sure to remove their vending card as you run the risk of someone else taking it if left there. 

When you travel several hours, visits usually last several hours - its hard on the kids. What child will sit still for hours with little to entertain them? Sometimes there are cards, occasionally a chess set available. Some of the little ones cry and get fussy and many of the toddlers want to run around. However, you risk the ire of the correctional officer in the visiting room if this happens and you don't want to be asked to leave because you then risk having visits suspended. 

Speaking of the visiting room, the vending machines are the only way to purchase food. Your loved one will look forward to the food as the food they usually get isn't all that good. Our son is one of the fortunate who can go to the commissary and purchase food and he also has a hot pot. The vending machines are expensive, even our grandson noticed the recent hike:

Salad (which is very special for the chance to obtain some fresh or somewhat fresh veggies) costs $7.25

Hamburgers and sandwiches are $5.00 to $7.00

Lunchables, snack size are $6.00

Oh and the "good stuff" ie salads, milk, yoghurt sell out frequently and the vending machine company comes once per week. And...make sure they have utensils because you need a fork or spork to eat the salad although our son gladly ate a salad with his fingers during a recent visit because I didn't check the utensil bin prior to purchasing it. However, he was still very thankful. 

The end of visits can be grueling too - the tears of the children leaving their Dad behind, the tears of parents realizing the enormity of incarceration....our grandson no longer clings to his Dad at the end of visits but still is very sad and feels that he must always reassure his Dad that he will be back "as soon as I can Dad - I miss you so much." Often, our son tears up too at his own son bearing this burden. 

Our son is in a prison built for 600 and it holds 1200 currently. Out of the 1200, many do not have any family support at all and exist on "state pay" which is $10 per month to purchase any hygiene items they want. Some don't have anyone on the outside that sends them money for phones, commissary or more importantly, visit them. 

The expense of incarceration is toughest on the poor and disproportionately the poor are more readily incarcerated. This isn't meant to be political at all, but rather a commentary on what families of prisoners, inmates, offenders or whatever you want to call them go thru. I've learned so much in the last 5+ years; none of which I wanted to experience. 

14-yr RN experience, ER, ICU, pre-hospital RN, 12+ years experience Nephrology APRN. allnurses Assistant Community Manager. Please let me know how I can help make our site enjoyable.

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Thank-you for sharing this update to your saga, it is sure to help others who have gone through/are going through a similar experience.  It takes a special person to open up about their very personal experiences and I am sure others appreciate it. It also gives us all an insight into issues that we maybe have not thought about. Wishing you and your family all the best!!

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Thanks Daisy - yeah 6 years ago I would have read this and thought "oh that poor family, that could never happen to US!" 

 

Little did I know....

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My youngest sibling was incarcerated in federal prison for many years. I wrote him but never visited and didn't provide a residential address for his visits.  His drug friends were dangerous people. 

My parents visited until my mom died, he couldn't get out for that. He was able to come care for dad in his last days and help with clean up. Dad lived in Florida, we didn't even have a memorial service for him. 

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@toomuchbaloney - our son tears off our address when we mail him letters. His is not drug-related nor do we have concern about others coming after us except for some other prisoners that might have weird ideas. 

My son is in the state system so we do have the option of paying approx $5k for him to be furloughed with guards, handcuffs, shackles if something dire happens to his immediate family. 

I am sorry for all you've been through.

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Trauma

Thanks for the update.  I remember when this all started for you.  My child was in as well for several years, however she was sent to several different states so we could not visit.  But I remember my heart (broken and so scared).  I remember the fear for her life in there and for her future.

Don't know your sons crime, but my daughters' did include several felonys(?spelling).  I have to share.  She did live.  She made it out alive and unhurt (though NO healthcare was provided to her).  This day she has held the same job for nearly 6 years and is a valued, reliable employee.  She is a loving mom and great friend to many.  At her job, she runs the collections for the Food Pantry, Toys for Tots, Adopt a Family at Christmas, Monthly pot luck at work, and runs the Christmas Party.  At times she feels limited by her past, but mostly she is just happy being present, drug-free, and prison free.  She has finally stopped looking over her shoulder at what was and is building a real life!  No, it wasn't easy, but she never gave up.  

Tell him to hang in there.  There are people that do care and want to help and he can live a better life.  As for his son, well, the past can never be erased.  The missed times can never be made up for, but new memories and trust can be built.  I wish I could give you a big hug but at least know that you and your family are thought of and best wishes and strength are being thrown your way!

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@LockportRN - Thanks for sharing. I'm no longer concerned with my son's safety. He is actually in a minimal security prison which is STG-free (security threat group or gangs in common language). My son of course committed a felony but not something drug related - so he stayed in the state system and we are fortunate to be able to visit. 

Thanks again for the positive story....

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Trauma,

Thank you for sharing.  I'm so sorry your family is going through this.  When I was a child my older brother was involved in drugs and was sent to prison for several years.  I remember in elementary school going to visit once a month.  It was awful and I can still remember it.  

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Thanks AnnieNP - it is still hard but like with all things, it becomes normal. 

 

And that in itself is concerning....

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