Children of the Incarcerated

The Tulsa World has a two part series focusing on an inmate's family. Today's entry begins:

Nine o’clock on a Sunday morning. “B.B.” Battle jumps out of the car and races ahead of his mother and his little sister so he can be the first one inside the door.

He’s the first to slip off his shoes for the guards to inspect, the first to empty his pockets and step through the metal detector. Before anyone else has a chance to look around, he’s already sitting down at a table on the far side of the visiting center at the Dick Conner Correctional Center, north of Hominy and an hour’s drive from B.B.’s home in Tulsa.

...His mother brings him breakfast from the vending machines – Dr Pepper, hot Cheetos and chocolate Donut Gems -- but B.B. ignores the food to rummage through a stack of board games. He gets the chess pieces set up by the time his father walks into the room.

“Want to play with me, Dad?”

It's a scene I see every time I visit a client on weekends and it's sad.

[B.B.] comes from a single-parent home, making him twice as likely to commit a felony someday as a child with both parents at home, according to research cited by the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center, a state office that collects data for the Legislature.

What’s more, B.B.’s father is incarcerated, making B.B. seven times more likely to be incarcerated himself. He’s black, making him six times more likely to go to prison eventually than a white child is. He comes from a low-income family. And attends an overcrowded school. And lives in a neighborhood troubled by gang violence.

There's a really nice photo slide show of the family. Part two will appear tomorrow.

Several years ago I wrote another post about the children of the incarcerated, based on a Salon article, "In prison again,I am the son of inmate 83A6158" by one of the chldren, Chesa Boudin. Chesa grew up and became a Rhodes scholar from Yale. His parents were jailed when he was just a toddler. He was raised by Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn.

Chesa visited his parents in prison for 17 years.

Inmate 83A6158 is my father. Both my biological parents have been serving life sentences since I was 14 months old. After their arrest I was adopted by their friends, my other parents, who already had two children, my brothers. This visit may be my grandmother's last. I remember when she took care of me; now I steady her while we walk.

As we enter the loud, crowded visiting room, I rush my father. Our embrace is restricted by the wide table separating us, but it's great to feel his powerful arms around me. Usually my father is delighted when he sees me but today his eyes are sad. His best friend in prison has died of AIDS. Although prison deaths are common, this untimely news casts a pall.

America, prison nation. Hopefully, our new President will urge some changes in our criminal justice system. That's the "hope and change" I'd like to see come out of this election.

< A Smart Use of Inmate Resources | Sarah Palin Tells Univision She Supports a Path to Citizenship For the Undocumented >
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    I think we both know... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 08:23:57 AM EST
    that kinda change isn't on the agenda...It has been most saddening to see both candidates totally ignore the prison nation and drug war issues during this campaign.  

    I've seen it too...a prison visiting room full of children visiting their incarcerated parent.  As I look around the room, I wonder how many of the fathers really gave society no choice but to lock them up, and how many are simply victims of tyrannical laws. So much suffering for so little reason...and no hope for change on the horizon.

    I guess we can only hope Obama has just been laying low on this one, since sticking up for the most downtrodden and forgotten is considered a campaign loser, and if elected he will address it in some way...but I seriously doubt it.  Like our men and women in Iraq...outta sight outta mind.

    Been there, seen that (none / 0) (#2)
    by Tom Hilton on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 10:54:19 AM EST
    When I was interviewing inmates for a big class action lawsuit (we basically won, by the way), the most heartbreaking part of every visit was seeing the families there.  Big signs on the wall spell out the rules for physical contact: you can embrace at the beginning and at the end of the visit (no kiss), and in between only your hands can be touching.  What a horrible way for kids to see a parent.  

    no place for children (none / 0) (#3)
    by sistersue on Sun Jan 11, 2009 at 10:34:56 AM EST
    There is no reason why children should be allowed in a prison. I would be scared to visit such a vile place. Why do parents have the right to bring their children there?