Your incarcerated loved one is getting out of prison. This is what you've been waiting for. This is why you've run for second chances, signed petitions, and shared your family's story.
So how do you prepare for your loved one's reentry?
A version of the following article originally aired as a BreakPoint commentary, and is reproduced here with permission.
It was back in the 1990s when I was practically a kid writer here at BreakPoint that I first heard about Prison Fellowship’s amazing Angel Tree program.
“Generation to generation, it all stems from me.”
The lament of Sheldon Johnson, Sr. is a familiar one for many families stuck in a cycle of crime and incarceration. A deaf child raised by parents who showed little interest in communicating with him, Johnson struggled with feelings of inadequacy and nonacceptance.
One of the less obvious statistics about crime and incarceration is also one of the most significant.
Nationwide, there are 2.7 million children with at least one parent behind bars. These kids are forced to deal with feelings of abandonment, shame, guilt, and loneliness, and face not having their mom or dad present for the landmark moments of their young lives.
The following article appears in the Summer 2016 issue of Inside Journal, Prison Fellowship’s quarterly publication written specifically for incarcerated men and women. To learn more about Inside Journal, and to read or print out previous issues, click here.
William “Billy” Kidd used to live up to his outlaw name.
When men and women who have been convicted of a crime are incarcerated, the sentence almost always extends beyond the prisoner. Spouses, parents, and children all “serve time” with their loved ones behind bars, suffering silently as they pay the price together for past misdeeds.
There is little debate remaining that the United States has a significant problem with the recidivism of former prisoners. Department of Justice statistics show that one-third of released prisoners are rearrested in their first year outside prison walls. Within three years, that number jumps to 50 percent, and then to 75 percent over five years.
When a mom or dad is sentenced to time behind bars, the intent is to punish that person for criminal behavior, and, hopefully, to deter them from future crimes. What is too often forgotten is that while they might go to prison alone, incarcerated parents aren’t the only ones that pay the price for their past behavior.
Every year, we look forward to receiving letters from those who were touched by Angel Tree during the most recent Christmas season. Particularly, we love hearing from prisoner parents who express how Angel Tree helped strengthen or rebuild a relationship with their children.