The Hidden Voices of the Incarcerated.
They spend over three billion dollars a year trying to maintain communications with their incarcerated loved ones. They spend their hard-earned honest money on food, writing materials, coloring books, postage, and even make-up. They are the silent minority who get their voices taken away. The following are stories that families of the incarcerated individuals have courageously shared with me. First, let’s talk about the impact.
Allocate more funds to prevent 2nd time crimes
Should society have a deeper understanding of how they are being protected?
Efficiently focusing our efforts
The first crime anyone commits is, to all intents and purposes, unpredictable. This is why it’s intrinsically impossible to predict how and when that first offense will happen. Think about the random, now infamous, first time crimes we have witnessed throughout the years. Oj Simpson, no one in the history of humankind would have ever thought that would happen. It’s one thing to be an asshole, but being accused of a premeditated murder, not even the ones who were close could have guessed it. Trying to prevent crime that way is no good. The way to prevent crime is by focussing all of our efforts and financial means on education during incarceration.
The Amazing World Of The System
The families of the incarcerated didn’t ask for this either.
Families Suffer Too
Families struggle to afford exorbitant costs while also dealing with intense emotional and physical trauma when a loved one is incarcerated. These issues can make it difficult for families to focus on the positives during this difficult time, and they are often in need of support and solidarity from others. Which they never get.
Family members of those who are incarcerated are sometimes referred to as “hidden victims” –that have not been recognized or given a chance to be heard by the courts. These hidden victims receive little personal assistance and do not benefit from the structural societal processes often accessible to direct crime victims.
The incarceration of over a quarter of a million individuals disrupts the networks of support within families. It distorts parent-child interactions. And adds unnecessary demands to governmental services including schools, foster care facilities, adoption agencies, and youth-serving groups. Little research has been done to examine the effects of imprisonment on families or to identify the requirements of care that result from such situations. Communities, social service organizations, healthcare professionals, and the criminal justice system might want to collaborate to better fulfill the needs of families.
When mental illness, drugs, and paranoia fuel our souls, the decision making process is just a bit off. We feel things, we think things, and we act on things that may or may not be in the best interest of oneself. When we are out there messing up, seeing shadow people, shooting up, and lying to everyone, it makes it very hard to trust us. The ones we love the most are the ones we think about the least, especially when we are doing the unthinkable. The families of the incarcerated serve the same sentence that their loved ones do. To add injury to insult, the families (who are completely innocent of anything) have to be in check with their emotions, stay strong for their loved ones and know not to rock the boat.
“Second chances are only as good as the paved roads that lead us to opportunity
Having a loved one in prison or jail has a devastating impact on their family members and loved ones at home. The following are three stories of courageous human beings that ultimately did what was right in the face of great adversity. They paid the ultimate price to make sure their loved ones had the comforts and support they needed during their journey. The family didn’t ask for this. No one asked them to put their lives, dreams, wants and needs on hold. Unfortunately, most of these stories don’t end well.
The silent voices of the criminal justice system
Three stories of what grit and forgiveness really personify. The family members have asked that their names be semi-redacted, meaning that one of the names is real and the other one is not.
In 2022 alone, she just celebrated her 67th birthday, her 50th wedding anniversary and a 30 year career with Rosas Southwest Papers. Michelle Lovato-Garcia sits by the hot stove laboring over cooking lunch for her four grandchildren. It’s exactly 1pm and while the heat at the end of the summer scorches, Michelle knows that no matter how she is feeling, her son, David, has it worse. Michelles schedule has gotten easier, but, that was just because the Courts awarded her custody of the four grandchildren. The grandkids are Davids kids. David has been incarcerated in Hobbs County for six years now. His estranged wife tried her hardest to support the children, whether it was prostitution, selling drugs, or forging checks, she was going to provide. CYFD ended that mission, and the courts, alas, gave Michelle full parental rights. Two months ago, David’s estranged wife was found dead in some hotel off Central Ave. There were no signs of a struggle, only little baggies of blue pills scattered around the hotel room. The death was ruled accidental.
“The most important thing is you must put everybody on notice that you’re here and you are for real.”-Kobe Bryant
He was eight years old when she got locked up. He remembers APD breaking into his house and throwing these balls of smoke and light through the windows. Enrique Cordova is now fourteen. His life has been filled with anger, violence and the emotional ups and downs one goes through when a parent is locked up. He has lived through the incarceration of his mother, Dolores, a promising young woman who let drugs rule her existence. Enrique never knew his biological dad. He hated the men his mom would bring home. They all wanted a free ride, exposed her to drugs, and led her down a path that’s result ended up being a fifteen year prison sentence for trafficking. Something that he knows his mom would never have done had she not been addicted to meth. While talking to Enrique, I realized how he really wasn’t fourteen. He was fourteen going on thirty. He was stoic in all of his answers. Defiant regarding how he felt about APD, and cold and calculated when he spoke about his future. A future that he said was “inevitable”. A life of crime that he answered was “a guarantee”. And a “no” when asked if he would consider going to college instead. Enrique told me that he thinks that by the time his mom is released he will be serving a prison sentence of his own.
“I said to myself the first year he was locked up, ‘what the hell am I doing?’ Why am I putting money on his books?” As Josephine showed me the photos of the incident, I thought to myself who could get this enraged? It’s been eleven years since the incident. She has gone through, all together, fifty-one different surgeries. Including, but not limited to, craniofacial surgery, reconstructive surgery, micro-facial surgery, and of course plastic surgery. Augustine Varela was sentenced to a life sentence (min 25yrs) for walking into his and Josephine’s master bedroom with a cinder block. Rumors had been circulating in the small community of San Jose, that Josephine had been having an affair. Instead of simply asking her, Augustine started smashing the cinderblock on Josephine’s sleeping face until the cinder block fell apart. The doctors said that her nose was inverted into her face so badly the tip of the bone was a millimeter from her brain. What happens when the victim was your family member as well? Josephine divorced Augustine four years after the incident. Although she has not forgiven him, she still works extra hours at the call center to fund his account.
A somber conclusion
In general people are unpredictable. Most of us beat to our own rules, some of us know the difference between right and wrong, but most of us don’t. Some commit crimes for the thrill, some, because circumstances force us to do it, and some are just plain evil. Whatever your truth may be, it’s too late to play Monday Morning Quarterback. The past is gone. We must always live in the present. The families that I interviewed had earth-shattering stories. They were stories that didn’t need to happen, but did, and their loved ones altered the course of their existence. There are hundreds of thousands of stories like these scattered across America. I wanted to pay tribute to the family members who have suffered. for so long from not being able to voice their feelings and emotions. They are the “hidden warriors” that play such a critical role in the reentry process. I salute you all.