It is Christmas Day, 2009. This is the first Christmas that I have not had any contact with my parents. As some of you know, my dad died last year in September, but I still had contact with my mom. This past September my siblings felt that it was in Mom's best interest to move her into an assisted living facility.
I know that her memory was not the best, but I am not sure if it is only the short term memory. At this point my only point of contact is with my brother and he has only written to me once in the thirteen years I have been in prison, and that letter came in October of this year telling me that he had moved mom into the assisted living facility and was only writing to me because Mom told him to.
He did not tell me the address of where our mother is, saying that he would bring any letters and cards I sent to her when he went to visit her. I sent out a letter to him, including one to Mom, on November 1, and since then I have not heard anything.
This is one of the most vexing problems for a lot of people in prison: contact with family members. There is often a lot of tension, bad feelings and emotional confusion when a member of the family ends up in prison. Sometimes it is seen as a badge of honor. Sometimes there is a sense of gratitude that an out of control family member is getting the "help" he or she needs.
At the recent Residents Encounter Christ weekend we heard from one mother whose son was suffering from drug addiction. Since being incarcerated, he has turned his whole life around, taking every program he can get into, including college classes. His mom told us, with tears in her eyes, she is so grateful to have her son back. Even though he is still incarcerated!
That is one of the rarer success stories. It is not always the case where parents and other family members are willing (or able) to provide the very much needed emotional support for an incarcerated family member. While it is true that all our needs are supposed to be supplied by our keepers, reality presents a much different picture.
Up until this past September, I have been blessed with parents that have supported me both financially and emotionally throughout my journey as an incarcerated person. It is really up to family and friends to provide the emotional and other support that an individual needs.
Yes, we are all provided "three hots and a cot." But there is no way any system can provide all an individual needs. That is exactly the problem. Individual needs. The very words "individual needs" would be tough to put into the same sentence with the word system.
It is my opinion, backed by thirteen plus years on the inside, that one of the most common holes in an inmate's life is having his or her individual needs met. A lot of the time the problem is compounded by an inmate not even knowing what his needs are. I suppose a definition of the word need is in order.