Incarceration is an ugly word and it should be. The verb incarcerate was first used in 1560 and comes from two words, “in” and “carcer “, meaning “a prison, or an enclosed space.” Origin is unknown. When someone is incarcerated, it is always their innocent families that suffer. Not only did they do nothing wrong, they have probably had to suffer from the actions of their “babies” all their lives. Now, through no fault of their own, they face spending their weekends in jail.
More often than not, these families are poverty stricken 4’-6” Hispanic mothers or pregnant teenagers, who had to find someone to look after the rest of their children while they took an hour or longer bus ride to the jail, only to face several long lines to be examined and questioned and made to feel like criminals. They then waited, sometimes for hours, in stark dreary holding areas, to finally be crammed into narrow corridors with 50 other innocent families to be able to see through safety glass and talk on a phone that is probably being recorded, for a mere 15 minute visit.
These are the same ones, whose home was raided, most likely, in the middle of the night by several heavily armed men that terrorized their entire family to take away their loved ones in handcuffs without one single word of comfort or information. They are the same ones who had to take off work to go to court, only to find out that they not only could not participate, but couldn’t even get information. If they were lucky, they had a public defender. If they hired a lawyer, they are now facing $10,000 or more in debt from lawyer fees, most likely on their credit card. These are the same ones that have to pay $8 dollars for the privilege of receiving a $16 collect call from jail to find that they now have to pay the fines that the court levied on them that has to be paid while their loved one is still in jail. Fines can explode a $200 penalty into a $3,000 un-payable debt.
But it doesn’t end there. Chances are, their loved one has lost their job if they had one, and will not be able to find another with a prison record. Not only does this mean that they will not be able to pay any costs involved, but they will probably need to move back home or live on the street. Neither alternative is good for the parents. You try living with a felon. While they were in prison, bills kept coming in, and that barely running car had to be moved or face being towed away. There is much more, but you get the picture.
Calling these families ‘prisoners’ is not an adequate term. ‘Slaves’ is a better term to describe their plight. Almost 7 million people are in prison or on probation or parole, and these families, 6% of our total population, are slaves to our penal system, and are deliberately made to suffer for it. Keep in mind that these are innocent people that are being punished without any trial whatsoever, and with no help offered to them. This is what I call criminal.
You used to look down on families of felons, thinking that they must have done something wrong, other than giving birth. Hopefully this has changed your mind.