Yesterday I was able to listen to a conference call about "A Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents." We were all able to hear people speak to what it was like to be a child of an incarcerated mother or father and this was very powerful. These individuals talked about blame, shame, judgement, and secrecy. These issues are hard enough for adults let along children. One woman Ms. Suzie Jensen spoke of her mother being arrested for larceny. She feels that today she has to "prove to people that she can be the perfect daughter/mother/wife so as to not turn into her mother." Ironically this is "what got my mother into trouble." She wanted her children to have clothes, nice things, etc. Ms. Jensen also spoke about the idea of helping youth who are affected by incarceration. She said the idea should not be "to prevent future criminals but create future leaders." Amachi the program that I work with calls this population "Children of Promise."
Marlene Sanchez spoke as well. She had her own struggles with the juvenile justice system, dealing with her father's incarceration, and now her son's father is incarcerated. One of the most powerful things she said was that "anger protected me." I see that with the children we serve sometimes.
She had to call friends and say her name was Veronika to be able to talk to them because there was stigma attached to her family and even teachers said she would end up like her parents. Marlene was in a fight and the principal told the other girl's parents that Marlene's dad was in prison. AHHHHHHH---- Could you imagine that??? She is very open about talking to her son about his father and grandfather being locked up that the son will even tell clerks in a store that his daddy is in prison. Marlene said that her anger and resentment affected her personally and politically. Marlene was the first "youth," appointed to the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Commison.