We decided to start sharing the one ceremony we have at ACJP — when a loved one comes home from prison or jail due to the advocacy of their family, and they erase their name from our weekly meeting board. To the outside viewer passing by our building and looking through our window, it may not look like much. Just some person erasing their name while others watch, clap, and cry. But for the families in the meeting, the ceremony is profoundly meaningful. It symbolizes the power of how family and community can challenge and beat the institutions of mass incarceration. Every weekly meeting, when families come to advocate for their loved ones, we write their loved one’s name on the white board, and then the groups shares updates and strategies as we go through the list of names. A number of people listed on the board had never set foot in a meeting until the day they come home. They have been detained while their family has come to these meetings every week. Robert was one of those community members — a name on the board that the rest of the group only knew through his mother’s stories, but they prayed for his release nonetheless. This short video is of the day he erased his name, at the first meeting of 2015. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24-IdhhMA9w&w=650&h=450]
The young man spent 3 1/2 years in a California State prison. His mother Veronica started coming to De-Bug’s ACJP about 4 years ago and our community supported her advocacy for her son. Together we attended court, met with the attorney, and created a social biography video that allowed her to show the judge why she was fighting so hard for her son. He was facing much more time. She has been waiting for his moment coming home since then. She picked him up from prison in the morning, and held a family welcome home party that very night. He told her, “Mom, I can’t believe I’m home. This is like a dream,” he said as their car pulled up to his aunt’s house where about 30 of his family members waited. She responded, “No, son. Prison, that was your nightmare, and this…” she points to his family and friends, “this is your reality.” (Photos by Charisse Domingo)
Veronica’s son bows his head in prayer as his cousin, a pastor at a local church, leads the family in a special blessing. This is his first day home after 3 1/2 years in prison.
Veronica gathers the entire family at her sister’s home to welcome her son on his first day back. After this, they watch the social biography video that De-Bug created to ask the judge for leniency in sentencing.
Veronica’s son and his grandmother.
He did 3 1/2 years in prison. This celebration combines all the missed birthdays and Christmases into a moving homecoming.
Veronica and her son share a moment. He couldn’t believe that 3 1/2 years had passed. As they pulled up to the house, he said, ‘This is like a dream.’ His mom said, ‘No, son. Prison was your nightmare. You’re home now, and this is your reality.’
For many of our loved ones who are jailed or incarcerated, being able to make a phone call is a precious way to be able to keep connected, to fight loneliness, and to be reassured that you are not alone as you fight your charges. Private companies that oversee the prison phone calls, however, capitalize on this and charge ridiculously high amounts for this connection, with rates for a 15 minute phone call as expensive as $10.95. 42 states in the nation actually receive a commission out of these calls as well. This week, the Center for Media Justice, along with Prison Legal News and Working Narratives, launched an effort to get prison phone rates onto the FCC’s legislative to-do list. Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
The Criminal Cost of Talking to a Loved One Behind Bars
Story By Leticia Miranda
Art by Hatty Lee
May 14, 2012
When Martha Wright’s grandson was moved to a prison outside of her hometown of Washington, DC., she didn’t expect that a short 5-minute conversation with him could cost up to $18.
“You just have to get everything out in one line,” she laughs.