Monday, February 25, 2008


I have done multiple visits to the prisons this month. It has still been extremely eye opening. I am finally at a point where the inmates can see what I have seen. Children are very vulnerable and their exposure to the cycle of incarceration is extreme. Last week I received a referral from an inmate at Charles Bass, so I called the mother to follow up and she said it was just not a good time. Her 19 year old son had followed the stepfather to prison a few days after her husband became incarcerated. I have only been doing this work since August and I have already seen firsthand what family’s experience. At our last staff meeting we had an Amachi theme to it. One of our mothers who has an a son in our Amachi program talked about her experiences and challenges and what it meant for her and her son to deal with a family member in prison. The phone calls were outrageously expensive. Books must be sent from a bookseller, you can not send your loved one used books. Your loved one can be moved at any time without warning. I think the average distance that an incarcerated parent lives from his or her child is two hours. The mother that spoke lost her auto insurance because it was with her husbands (who had been in the armed forces.) And it is revoked when someone is incarcerated. The mother found that the only program available for children who had an incarcerated parent was Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi Program. During this staff meeting I realized how passionate I have become about the issues. When I have delved deep into a subject it affects the core of which I am- my soul. As I spoke and retold some of my experiences I felt my voice crack and my voice was tainted with emotion. I speak to sixty inmates weekly and I have become a very composed speaker but among my peers I became emotional and worked up.
Today there was hope…we show a DVD about the program and there are inmates and their stories showcased. The one man from the video was imprisoned at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison and was recently moved to another lower security prison where I do presentations. He will soon be on work release and than freed. I don’t know the whole history of what he did but he is a changed man. In the DVD he spoke about how his father was incarcerated when he was growing up and how he was incarcerated a lot of his son’s life and then his son followed the same path. So I saw this inmate today and asked about how his son is doing. His son was recently released and he received a grant to go to community college. So only now that they are grown men do they get a chance to be a family again.

Monday, February 11, 2008


This past month I have been involved with some more Mentoring Children of Prisoners surveys which has been pretty interesting because other than my time at Amachi Kids Club it is the only other chance to get to know the Amachi children. From the short time I am there I receive a snapshot of a life in transition. I talked to a grandmother some about her life and she was telling me about how she used to drive tractor trailers with her husband all across the country but is now retired. She takes care of her two grandsons afterschool then the aunt picks up both the children. These two boys are cousins but they both have been affected by the same thing----the incarceration of a parent. The aunt who the boys live with doesn’t even have children. It is amazing how families come together to care for “these children of promise.” It is just incredible what these children have to deal with at such a young age. The one boy’s mother is really sick and is a drug abuser. I just know that a big brother will give these boys more hope and support.
The men in prison do look beyond themselves and think of their families. A recent theme I have noticed in the correctional facilities is uncles referring their nieces and nephews for the program. Then when I call to do intake for the children I find out that the father is incarcerated as well. Talk about the cycle of brothers, sisters, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews…following family members to prison. The idea of a namesake never scared me before. My brother has an IV behind his name so obviously my family likes the idea, most do. We want to carry on qualities of our family members. We want a name to connect us. But there is power in a name and I don’t want these children to feel as though they have to live up to the name that their father or mother has. I don’t want Rodney Jr. and Rodneshia to follow their father Rodney to prison. Or five year old Antoniya or eight year old Antonnio Jr. to follow father Antonnio to prison.
Amachi Kids Club was a hit in January for the volunteers and the children. A taekwondo instructor came and did a demonstration. Chopping wood in half, high kicks, and the kids were in awe. The best was when the children were able to try everything they had seen. The way the instructor taught the children was they learned facts about TN as they kicked and learned the Korean words. They were so disciplined and so confident I wish we could have an Amachi Kids Club that would revolve around the martial arts. One of the “littles” is still telling her “big” a month later what the Tennessee state flower, bird, and animal are. Just last weekend we did activities for Black History Month and Valentines Day. It was fun and you could tell the kids were impressed with all the accomplishments of Black Americans. A woman from the Vanderbilt Black Law Association also worked with Kids Club and got a kick out of it. We played Valentine’s Day Bingo and decorated frames with beads and other nick knacks.