Authors Howard Zehr and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz give voices to the children who often go unheard in their book titled “What Will Happen to Me?”. The book features children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers with pictures and excerpts of how they think and feel about what has happened.
Many of us probably have thought about how difficult this would be for a child, but seeing their faces and hearing their thoughts in their own words is truly heart wrenching. The fear, confusion, shame and often angry reaction these children have are a part of the reason why SWAN has been established. SWAN’s mission is to reach these children and give them a voice through music, to enable them to have something positive that they can be proud of, and to give them direction and purpose for their good and the good of those around them.
In their own words…
“I felt so sad. I was just crying. It just made my head hurt, my brain hurt, my stomach hurt. It just got control of me. It got my mind twisted. I couldn’t focus on anything else… I couldn’t live without her. It was like a curse. It was like a prison.” Jasmine
“It was something you weren’t supposed to talk about outside the house.” Anabel
“You could say I was mad at the world. I didn’t want to talk to nobody, to tell people how I felt, didn’t want to be around nobody. I took my anger out on other people.” Taylor
These children are often haunted with questions like “Where is my mom or dad?, When is he or she coming home?, Who is going to take care of me?, Is this my fault?, Why do I feel so angry? Will I end up in jail just like my mom or dad?”. Can you image bearing that burden of worry? The authors state that “Children whose parents are incarcerated often express their grief, loss, shame and sense of unfairness through anger or defiance”. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots of why these children are at a greater risk to end up incarcerated themselves. Listen to the words of a female inmate who sees first hand the tragic reality of these children following in their parents footsteps.
“I was serving time with a woman who had only 10 years to do. Twenty years later, some kid comes up to me and says,”Aren’t you Ms. Mechie? My mom told me to look you up when I got here.” At first I was glad to see someone else’s child, like they dropped by my house to visit. Then it occurred to me just how tragic a scene this is. Now it happens all the time – I’m forever looking out for somebody’s kid here in prison.”
“I see three generations of mothers, all in prison at once. For those who lack clear evidence of intergenerational incarceration – here we all are!” Marie Scott
Need we say more? You can help SWAN break the cycle of crime in these children’s live today!