Issues and Facts
  • Reflections From Our Prison Bonding Trip

    Posted on   1/27/2014  11:06 AM

    On our recent prison bonding trip, one of our volunteers was deeply moved by her experience in escorting two of our children. Sarah Coats, who is a board member of our partner, Silent Victims of Crime, shared her thoughts. (Annie and James are not the real names of the children; we changed their names to protect their privacy.)

    On January 3, I met Annie and James, who were going to visit their mother in prison.

    Annie is a bright-eyed 5 year old, excited about her dangling clip-on earrings. James is a tall, cool teen who helped his sister with her sweatshirt, filled out the paperwork, and acted like the man in charge. I sat with Annie on the bus and learned all about her (favorite colors: purple, pink and green, thank you!) and a bit about her family life. Annie's mom had been gone for most of her life, but they had a connection. She told me her mom would call her "princess," and I could see how eager she was to hear those words. In many ways, she was like any other kid – she loved to sing the ABCs and count to 100, impressed me with her imagination when we drew pictures, and had boundless energy. However, Annie faces challenges we don't think children should have to deal with – family members coming in and out of her home, missing out on simple childhood fun like Halloween because a costume was too expensive, and only seeing her mom on quarterly visits.

    As we travelled to the prison, James remained in his own world, with an almost-bored look on his face. From the papers I knew he looked forward to reuniting with his mother upon her release in the coming year, and he felt his current caregiver did not understand him. He didn't live with his sister and also faced many changes in the home. Like many teen boys, James liked to talk sports but otherwise didn't have lots to say to the new faces around him.

    We had to wait some time before entering the prison for the visit. I took Annie through the pat-down security screening, where the guard said to me, "What are you to her?" That question stopped me in my tracks. I'm nothing, just an escort? I guess that was the answer she was looking for. But it didn't seem right. I've spent the morning with this little angel and we are both nervous and excited for her visit with her mother. On the way home we'll laugh and talk and play, and I'll pat her head as she lies on my lap to sleep on the bus. So that's it. "I'm her friend," I said.

    We put our shoes on and entered the visiting room and I was stopped in my tracks a second time. There was James, the cool teenager, wrapped around his mother in the biggest embrace I've ever seen. He was taller than her now, but he completely melted into her arms. He hadn't even taken the time to put on his shoes, which were strewn on the floor, evidence of his excitement. Annie ran and joined them, and I heard her mother say, "My princess!"

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by  Luis Salazar3/4/2014 6:15 PM

Beautiful story, thank you. What a learning experience for everyone. God Bless.