I’ve Been In Your Shoes: Decisions! Dilemmas! Declarations!
By Jeslyn Lewis
As mothers, we teach our children what we believe is right. Yet sometimes they choose a different path. I became a single mother after almost 14 years of marriage, and it seems things with my children went momentarily haywire afterwards. One of my sons went to prison on more than 25 charges. While he was there, hard times hit like a boulder. I faced tough decisions that I had to make. And I had little to no control of the consequences.
Money was tight! There were times when I had to choose whether to put money in his commissary account, put money on the phone account so he could call home, or put gas in my car to go visit him. These are decisions no mother should have to make concerning her child. We were not strangers to hard times, But incarceration was a jungle of unexplored territory for us.
I got a phone call from the prison that no mother should ever have to receive.
One day, I received a phone call from the company from which the prison facility calls came. To my surprise, it was not my son’s voice on the opposite end. I heard an unfamiliar voice who identified himself as someone incarcerated with my son. He told me that my son could not call me for a couple of days. He said another incarcerated person had brutally attacked my son. And he stated that my son had been treated in the infirmary but went to solitary confinement after that.
My heart literally sank. I remember praying the night before. I started praying in bed. But something made me get on my knees. Still, worry overwhelmed me. There were so many questions running through my mind. Was my son okay? Why would someone want to harm him? Was he disfigured? If so, was it permanent? Was he able to defend himself?
I had so many questions, but prison officials decided not to let me ask any of them.
Finally, a few days later, my son called and told me he was okay. He also told me that he could not discuss what happened. The following weekend, I went to visit him. After signing in and standing in line, it was my turn to be patted down at last. That’s when the guard asked me to step into another room. There, the guard told me that I would see some visible bruises on my son. No matter what I saw during my visit, the guard said, I was not to ask any questions nor allow him to discuss the incident. If I did, they’d cut our visit short. Just knowing my son’s life could have been taken was overwhelming enough. But being told not to ask any questions was extremely difficult.
I remember how I wanted my son to feel encouraged while I figured out how to take care of the bare essentials. I decided then that I would always do what I could to help those who find themselves on the other side of those bars. That’s why I now write letters to incarcerated individuals that I can get addresses for. I send notes of encouragement and try to inspire them to stay hopeful. Those are the decisions I chose to make.
You can hear from How to Justice’s other justice-impacted contributors in our I’ve Been In Your Shoes section. Make sure to check out our other pieces about what it means to be justice impacted, including our most recent piece from Devin D. Coleman.