Parents Wonder About their Childrens' First Day Behind Bars
(March 11, 2014) There are too many parents with gut-wrenching stories like the ones these two anonymous parents are telling.
“I remember my son’s first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday. The angst I felt when dropping him off and watching that timid little boy walk to the front door,” writes the mother of a son with mental illness in a letter author Pete Earley published on his blog (“Frustrated mother describes her psychotic son’s first day in prison”).
“Tears from the realization that my ‘baby’ was growing up and would eventually have to face this harsh world without me," she writes. "Worrying about whether or not he would be treated with kindness by the other children in his morning kindergarten class.”
These are memories that every parent can identify with. But too many parents can also identify with the experience of a son or daughter’s first day behind bars.
“Tuesday was my mentally ill son’s first day in the prison unit he’s been assigned to,” Earley’s letter writer continues. “The intensity of this particular angst, the depth of the sorrow in my tears, and the heart-wrenching worry over how he will be treated by the guards and inmates is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life.”
And from another parent in another publication. “My daughter sleeps in jail tonight, not because she is a criminal, but because the voices told her to do something that was,” begins a father’s story in Daily Kos (“My daughter sleeps in jail tonight: How mental health treatment fails America’s youth,” Feb. 19).
“Instinctively, I stop at her bedroom door and look in at the stuffed animals left untouched on her pillowed bedspread. I try to accept the fact that tonight, my precious baby girl will rest her head on a cold and dirty mattress in a jail.”
Parents will continue marking first days like this until America stops incarcerating its young people with severe mental illness and starts giving them timely and effective treatment before they commit crimes.
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