One of the most difficult times of my life was listening to the guilty verdict in my wife’s trial, watching her taken away in handcuffs, and then having to tell my five children ages 2, 5, 7, 10, and 20 that their mother would not be home for a very long time, which turned out to be nearly ten years.
I immediately had to shift my focus to the care of my children and how I would manage that without my wife. I had to assure my wife that there would be no lapse in their education, healthcare, clothing, and food needs. I had to be there for them emotionally and psychologically.
Because we no longer had my wife’s salary we had to sell our house that we worked so hard to purchase. We had to move twice; once to her mother’s house and then to my mother’s house. Even though we appreciated the accommodations the conditions were not the best.
The trips to visit my wife were both joyful and stressful. There was joy in seeing her but the pain of her not being able to come home with us was extraordinary. At one point, for no apparent reason she was transferred nearly six hours away to another facility far from me and our children. The visits were stressful due to the waiting and searching procedures (two times the kids and I were randomly selected for drug searches, during which in further humiliation, tape and a sticky roller was used to run over our clothes, money, and footwear in search of drug residue), the restrictions, the bad vending machine food, and the high cost of purchasing the food.
We were blessed to have support from family, friends, and church members. Most families of the incarcerated don’t have this support. When my wife was finally released there was an adjustment period for her and for us. It took her over a year to find work, and because of crowded conditions we still weren’t able to live together until we found an apartment of our own. Thankfully, today we are a united family again under one roof. I have great admiration for my wife and children. They showed courage, love, and resilience throughout the whole situation.
My heart goes out to all families of incarcerated loved ones who are often neglected and forgotten. I can only imagine how hard it is for those who don’t have a base of support, which is why I will be participating in the March for Justice from Harlem to Albany to raise awareness about the inhumanity and the injustice that is taking place in our criminal justice system.