A Prison Visit on Mother's Day | Bleader

A Prison Visit on Mother's Day


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  • Image by Ken_Mayer via Flickr
This post is by Grace Warren, codirector of the Campaign for Youth Justice's National Parent Caucus.

As a young boy, my son would pick flowers out of the front yard give them to me with dirt still on the stems and say, “Happy Mother’s Day, Ma!” We still laugh about that now. I'll always remember him grinning and saying, “I got you some flowers for Mother’s Day.”

My son was incarcerated as a juvenile and is now serving his sentence at the Menard Correctional Facility in Chester, Illinois. I have watched him grow from a teenager to a fine, young, intelligent man. You may wonder how intelligent he can be if he is incarcerated at a place with no scholastic programs in place. He managed to find an outside school where he was allowed to get his diploma. Unfortunately, the facility where he is now has no educational programs where he can take college courses and further his education. However, he has not let this discourage him. He began reading as many books as he could that would educate him on many different subjects. He has taught himself a second language with these books. Sometimes the world throws you a lemon, and you use it to make lemonade. That is what we are trying to do.

I am a strong advocate for reforming the outrageously expensive and unchecked corrections system, and my son knows that I fight day in and day out. I don’t just fight for him; I fight for all of us, because the entire country is suffering—with less money to educate our children, take care of our sick, repair our roads and infrastructure, and provide all the other services that improve our economic situation. Prisons warehousing millions do not buy us the public safety we all want for our families and communities. In this day and age, it is incredibly hard to understand that we try children as adults and lock them in cages, all the while expecting them to become productive members of society. In fact, our over-reliance on incarceration has been proven to have failed, and yet few people ever ask the important question, "How is it working?" The research shows us it isn’t.

My son told me once, “Ma, you should be living your life and enjoying yourself. I do not want you to spend the rest of your life fighting for me. I will be all right. You’ve done all you can do, and I appreciate what you have done.” My son used his time to do better, and it is his determination and beautiful spirit that will not allow me to walk away from this struggle.

My Mother’s Day will be spent at the prison, instead of at home with all of my family; but, until our nation begins to question the idea that we can warehouse away our social problems, I will continue to spend my special days behind bars with my son and the remaining days asking society to question if we are being "tough on crime" or if we are being smart on crime. As a nation, we can’t afford the former any more.