Shame, Guilt, Blame, Depression, Embarrassment, and Fear.
These are the feelings that bounced through the mind of 9 year old Brian when his mother told him the news that his father was in jail. Now all he could think about was just how long his dad would be gone.
While growing up Brian lived with both mom and dad. His dad was a mechanic and worked hard to provide a very comfortable life for his wife and son. What Brian didn’t know was his dad was also a drug dealer. He never understood why armed men with badges drawn would want to kick in his door and take his dad away. He began to ask himself “Did I do something wrong? “
Before Brian’s father went to prison, Brian enjoyed spending time with his dad on the weekends and after dinner on school nights. Brian never went without or wanted as his father always provided. The most important thing to Brian was the time he and his father spent together.
Now 9 years later the journey living without a dad has been kept mostly a secret. It’s not cool to talk about prison or admit that you know someone in prison. He’s grown up hearing that only bad people are in prison and Brian isn’t sure if maybe he’s a bad kid because of his dad’s incarceration. . At school he’s never heard any of his class mates talking about their dad’s being in prison. He’s decided it’s just easier to ignore this little secret and maybe it will go away without anyone knowing.
With his father gone Brian can’t depend on the support and protection of his father at a time when he needs it most. The decisions and choices he makes the next 10 years will decide the fate of his future.
The spike in absentee fathers started more than 20 years ago. Since then, the U.S. prison population has grown by 3.8 percent. One contributing factor to this drastic increase was the so-called War on Drugs.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, cocaine and automatic weapons flooded major inner cities. It also incited discriminatory drug policies (mandatory sentencing, the Rockefeller drug laws and three strikes legislation), which all happened under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.
As a result, the epidemic of mass incarceration helped to create a multibillion-dollar prison industry where children and families of inmates were and are considered collateral damage.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that more than 2.9 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent. In addition, more than 12 million children are living with a parent who is under some form of criminal justice supervision.
Where are these 12 million kids? These 12 million kids are the FACELESS generation living among us today. Prisons aren’t prejudice to any particular race, social class, or gender. The fact is this faceless generation can be found all threw out America in many unexpected neighborhoods. This isn’t just a stereo typed crisis but an American culture epidemic taking place in a country that in prison’s more people than any other country in the world.
The question we need to ask ourselves is “WHO REALLY ARE THE ONES DOING THE TIME”
Like Brian millions of kids live with an unwarranted amount of guilt and shame of having a parent incarcerated. The parents made the decisions that led them to prison, but the kids live with the guilt as if they were the ones that made the decision that put their parents behind bars.
These kids are the FACELESS generation silenced by prejudice and ignorant behavior of others. These kids haven’t done anything wrong and should have the same opportunity’s to succeed as their peers. It’s up to us to break down the barriers keeping these kids hidden, make them feel accepted and give them the tools to break the chains of intergenerational cycles of incarceration and help them integrate into productive members of our society.