Archive | April, 2012

PCAP Linkage Art Exhibition, April 20 to May 5, 2012 in Holland, MI

23 Apr

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) is an amazing program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, that takes undergrads into prisons, juvenile facilities, and urban high schools throughout Michigan to conduct collaborative arts workshops.  One of their other programs, the PCAP Linkage Project supports formerly incarcerated artists, writers, actors, dancers, and musicians who worked with PCAP during their imprisonment.  Working with returning citizens is far more difficult than working with folks in prison.  Though life in prison is terribly unpleasant, the incarcerated don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, how they’ll find work and make an income, or where they will sleep that night.  Returning citizens often find the free world very changed from what they knew before they entered prison, and those of them who became artists while in prison struggle to continue working creatively after their release because other concerns take precedence over the desire to make art.

On April 5, 2012, the PCAP Linkage Project held an amazing conference, organized by staff member Heather Wilson, for formerly incarcerated artists.  I had the privilege of getting to attend the day’s events in Detroit, meet the artists, and see some of their work.  Many of the artists brought drawings and paintings to the conference, and all the works of art collected that day are now on display at the Ridge Point Community Church at 340 104th Avenue in Holland, MI.  (That’s in the western part of the state, not far from Grand Rapids.)  Click here for more information about the exhibition which runs from now until May 5, 2012.  If you’re out in that neck of the woods, don’t pass up the opportunity to see these wonderful works of art.

All About My Mother: A Mother’s Day Tribute to the Woman Who Raised Me in a Prison Visiting Room; a post by Ashley Lucas

13 Apr

Children with an incarcerated family member have little choice about whether or not they will be able to maintain meaningful and regular contact with an imprisoned loved one.  The adult(s) who raise that child in the absence of incarcerated family members get to make all of the decisions and bear the many burdens of enabling a child to build relationships with his/her incarcerated relative or of choosing to keep that child from the person behind bars.  Either way, these adults inevitably struggle emotionally and intellectually (and almost always financially) with the many convoluted difficulties of parenting a child whose life is shaped by incarceration.  This Mother’s Day I pay tribute to all moms and grandmothers (biological, foster, adopted, or otherwise) raising children of incarcerated parents.

My mother never dreamed that she would one day be a prisoner’s wife.  My father’s incarceration came as a shock to our entire family–one that we are in some ways still reeling from seventeen and a half years later.  Our family was economically devastated by the legal battles we waged for years before my father’s conviction, and my mother had given up her teaching career when I was born so that she could stay home to raise me.  With my father gone from our home, she had to return to work and became the sole breadwinner for our family.  I was fifteen years old and very frightened and disoriented by the radical changes in my life.  My mother was certainly overwhelmed, confused, and bereft, but she dedicated herself to raising me and to enabling my father to continue to raise me from inside prison.

For my remaining years of high school, she drove me once a month eight hours in each direction to and from the prison.  She bought me stamps and stationary at every gift-giving holiday and helped me to scour craft stores for rubber stamps and ink pads to decorate my daily letters to my father.  She photographed practically every moment of my senior year of high school so that my father could see all that I was doing.  When I was accepted to Yale University and considered declining their offer, she convinced me that I had to take this opportunity, though it meant leaving her alone and not being able to visit either of my parents more than twice during the school year.   She helped me send back my financial aid package three times until they finally gave me enough scholarships and loans to make my tuition affordable, and she went further into debt herself to make sure I would be able to complete my undergraduate education.  She made me see that living each of my days to the fullest would ultimately be a greater gift to both her and my father than my staying home to be near them.

In the beginning, we understood nothing about how prisons operate, what my father’s days looked like, which of our fears were overblown, and which things we had not yet learned to fear.  My mother faced the challenge of not just figuring these things out for herself but also of finding ways to explain them to me.  She bears my suffering along with her own and never complains about the burdens I have given her to carry.  Together we learned this world of visits and lawyers and collect phone calls and the nightmares we do not name.   She taught me to pay attention to what the people around us also endure, to talk to the other families in the visiting room and listen to their stories.  She made me realize that we are not alone in this experience and that in many respects we are much more privileged than most.

One day when we were driving away from the prison, my mother stopped on the side of the road to pick up a woman who was walking down the dirt road into town.  She had obviously just had a visit at the prison, too.  She had no coat on that cold day, but she wasn’t hitchhiking, just walking home.  My mother drove her ten miles to the shabby house where she rented a room, and in the course of that car ride the woman told us that she had moved to this dusty little spot in the middle of nowhere Texas just to be near her husband in the prison.  Her whole family was in Oklahoma, and she couldn’t keep more than a part time job because of her disabilities.  She volunteered at a nursing home and walked the ten miles to the prison and back once a week.  She didn’t own a car, and the soles of her shoes were worn thin.  For months after that, every time we went to the prison, my mother scanned the road for that woman and always asked my father for any news he had of her and her husband.  My father contacted a prison ministry group who visit the prison and asked them if they would help find a coat and rides to and from the prison for this lady, but we never knew if any of the prison ministry folks ever caught up to her.  My mother watches all the families we see in the visiting room and is so grateful when she finds a way to help one of them, mostly in the form of information or advice about the prison system.  She works as an administrator for a public school district, and often teachers will send kids to talk to my mother about what is happening to their incarcerated siblings, parents, or uncles.  She joined a prison ministry team at her church and helps folks coming home from prison navigate their new lives.

My mother always encouraged me to speak my mind and to have no shame about my father’s incarceration.  Her faith in me and her support of my scholarship and performance work enabled me to write my play Doin’ Time.  When I performed at the women’s prison in Dublin, Ireland, my mother came with me.  During the post-performance discussion, the women in the prison seemed even more moved by my mother than they had been by my play.  They were in awe of her support of my work, and many of them felt that their own families would not have wanted them to speak publicly about incarceration because of how its stigma reflects on them.  My mother’s pride in my work moved them to tears, and many of them wanted to shake her hand or hug her after the show.

I hesitated to get engaged to my now husband, long after I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, because I couldn’t bear the thought of my father not being present for my wedding.  When the time came, my mother walked me down the aisle, gave me away, and sat next to a beautiful sign she had made, which stated that that seat was reserved for my father and the many other incarcerated people we love who could not attend the wedding.  She has never tried to replace or ignore my father’s presence in my life, and she always finds a way to honor him and the love we share.

My mother gave me my relationship with my father after he went to prison.  If she had not accepted his phone calls, taken me to visit, encouraged my letter writing, I would not have continued to know him as well as I do now.  The prison has taken much from each of us, but it cannot take our family; my mother wouldn’t let that happen.

Panel on Justice and Sexual Violence on Mon., April 16th in Chapel Hill, NC

12 Apr

What does “justice” mean in our work to end sexual violence and support survivors?

Please join community activists and volunteers from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center for an exciting discussion about community-based strategies for accountability and healing.  This interactive discussion will address the pros and cons of the criminal justice system as a means of responding to sexual violence, and explore alternatives beyond it.  Panelists will discuss transformative and restorative justice, alternative models for redressing harm and holding aggressors accountable, and our experiences with these processes in our own communities.  Don’t miss this opportunity to re-imagine justice as we work together towards a world free of gender violence and all oppression!

Monday, April 16th


Orange County Rape Crisis Center

1506 E. Franklin Street Suite 302

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Prison Family Bill of Rights

11 Apr

Prison Family Bill of Rights

A coalition of prison family members and representatives of secular and faith based organizations serving prison
families from across the United States in attendance at the 2012 National Prisoner’s Family Conference affirmed
the following:

The Prison Family has the right to be treated with respect and dignity by any and all representatives of the prison
system at all times.

The Prison Family has the right to expect and be assured the utmost care is established and maintained to provide
a healthy and safe living environment that promotes effective rehabilitation, reintegration and parole planning
throughout a loved one’s incarceration.

The Prison Family has the right to be treated and integrated as a positive resource in the process of rehabilitation
and reintegration preparation and parole planning of an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to receive consistency in the enforcement of rules; regulations and policies
affecting a loved one’s incarceration.

The Prison Family has the right to receive consistency in the enforcement of rules; regulations and/or policies
affecting visitation and/or all forms of communication with an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be informed in a timely, clear, forthright and respectful manner of any changes
in rules; regulations and/or policies affecting visitation and/or communication with an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be informed within 24 hours and in a compassionate manner regarding the
illness; injury and/or death of an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to extended visitation during the hospitalization of an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be informed within 24 hours of the security status change and/or transfer of an
incarcerated loved one to a new facility.

The Prison Family has the right to be provided specific written and evidenced-based reasons for a loved one’s
security status change; clemency denial and/or parole denial.

The Prison Family has the right to have their incarcerated loved one housed within a distance from their
permanent address that provides reasonable access for visitation and/or to facilitate serving as a resource in the
rehabilitation and reintegration preparation and parole planning of their incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be provided the current specific name or names and direct phone numbers of
prison officials to contact for questions about their incarcerated loved one.

The term “Prison Family” is herein defined as including, but not limited to, a blood or adopted relation, spouse,
domestic partner and/or trusted friend designated by an incarcerated person upon or during a period of
confinement as one who will serve as an outside contact on his or her behalf for the relaying of any communication
regarding the medical and mental health, security status and location of the incarcerated person and/or for making
critical decisions on behalf of the incarcerated person in the event of his or her incapacitation.

For further information: and

Call for Stories from Children of Incarcerated Parents

9 Apr

Denise Johnston of the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents and Megan Sullivan of Columbia University are putting together a book of stories written by adults who experienced the incarceration of a parent when they were children.  Please contact them directly for more information.

Call for Stories from Children of Incarcerated Parents

Are you an adult who experienced the incarceration of your parent as a child?  Are you interested in sharing your story, in your own words, with others?

Do you have an adult child who experienced your incarceration?  Would your adult child be interested in sharing his/her story with others?

We are editing a book of life stories by adults who had a parent in jail and/or prison when they were growing up.   The book will describe adult perspectives on parental incarceration.  This will not be a book ABOUT children of incarcerated parents, it will be a book BY adults who experienced the incarceration of a parent as children.

There is no requirement that contributors have ever lived with their incarcerated parent.  There is no requirement that contributors have ever had an active relationship with their parent who has been in jail or prison.  We are particularly interested in stories from individuals who have been involved in the juvenile or criminal justice systems themselves.

We will provide editorial assistance to help contributors write the story they want to tell.  Contributors can send us their written work electronically or by mail.

Individuals who are interested in sharing their stories and participating in this important project can email or write to us at:


Denise Johnston & Megan Sullivan
c/o Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents
Box 41-286
Eagle Rock, California 90041        

Please contact us by June 30, 2012.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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