Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with a friend of my supervisor who experienced incarceration. She thought that it would be good for me to interact with community members—something that has been limited in this COVID-afflicted world—to better understanding the population that 3D serves. It proved to be a helpful and provocative conversation.
The man I spoke with described to me how he was incarcerated for three years and missed some of the formative years of his children. He spoke with frustration when he described how difficult communication with his children was during his time in prison. While visits were possible, he told me that his kids didn’t want to visit to avoid seeing their father in that context. So, phone calls were the best medium of communication for him and his children, but this was severely restricted: he was only permitted 15 minutes per call (how often he could make these calls I didn’t ask) and the calls costed $0.30 per minute. The rules are arbitrary, absurd, and cruel. And with further reading, I saw that some jails and prisons charge $1.50 minutely. Though not in every case, poverty is often one of the causes of incarceration, so it’s highly likely that these calls will be unaffordable to the prisoners. It’s inhumane to deprive prisoners of contact with their family. It’s terribly unjust to exploit this vulnerable population. And as 3D points out, this limited communication between incarcerated parent and child puts the burden of their parent’s incarceration on the child.
The conversation shifted to COVID in prisons. The man I spoke with described prisons as the perfect breeding ground for COVID, where prisoners live in close quarters, sharer many facilities, and where hygiene and sanitation products are artificially expensive and limited. He told me that he would be scared to be in prison now. I can only imagine how it would be for his children who would have no consistent way to check in on how he was doing.
3D is partnered with a nonprofit that advocates for the children of incarcerated parents called We Got Us Now. We Got Us Now has put together a petition demanding solutions to many of the issues I heard about in my conversation: (1) clemency for elderly and sick prisoners who are most vulnerable to COVID, (2) free communications (phone calls, emails, mail, etc.) for prisoners, (3) implementation of a notification system so families can check in on their incarcerated loved one, and (4) improved health and safety measures (free medical care, no co-pays, free soap, hand sanitizer, etc.). Please take the time to sign this petition at https://www.wegotusnow.org/!!!!