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They have my social security number, drivers license number, address and fingerprints. They let me in to visit inmate # 1000946150.

They don’t know who I am.  

I am invisible to them even though I show up week after week, year after year to visit my son in prison. Even though I call them and write them, they still don’t know who I am.

Oh, maybe they know the infamous Kate Boccia. Momma Kate. But do they know that I love children, dogs, food, art, music and that I especially love the beach?

They may look at me, but they don’t see me, or the hundreds of thousands like me who love someone in prison. But we are here.

If you look at a prison line you won’t see anything different than you would see in any other line like Walmart, the movies, sporting events and other places that people wait. The faces aren’t all the same in any line. Each person is unique in size, shape, color and age. But all of them want the same thing and that is to get to the front of the line without incident, so they can do what they came for.

While waiting in most lines you can pass time with idle conversation or by playing with your device. You can dress as you choose and don’t expect to be turned away. If the person that is getting you in the building or ringing up your purchases is happy and smiling, the line goes that way. But if they are angry and slow, the line becomes ornery too.

So, think of a prison line. Every visit we are praying the weather will be nice for the long wait outside, hoping the officer on duty is in a good mood, wondering if the white slacks you are wearing will be allowed, waiting for several hours without a device and rarely any idle conversation to pass the time. Will today be the day we get in without incident? Will today be a happy line? Most likely not.

This line creates constant tension between the officers and families and slowly breaks down your will and your heart. We grumble under our breaths as we leave, knowing that it will be the same thing next visit.  These unknown families quietly accept this as normal in the prison line but would never stand for it in any other line.

The slow and deliberate breakdown of the unknown family happens every Saturday, Sunday and state holiday in our country. If we have 2.5 million Americans in custody we can reasonably assume that we have 5 million of us who put up with this.

As I develop my concepts into tangible initiatives I begin to realize the power a family has to help or hurt their own. Not just in prison, but in the free world too. Angry families create a toxic culture which creates social toxins.

Social toxins become a gateway to desperate living and desperate living causes desperate behaviors. Desperate behaviors cause more social toxins which ultimately lead to death or incarceration.

How do we change this cycle? By fixing families, by really seeing who we are and understanding our needs. We start by allowing families a safe place to get information. By providing families with tools and resources we will begin to see positive outcomes. Also, by allowing them to engage in the life of their loved one to keep them strong and motivated during incarceration will ultimately create healthier men and women coming home.

If we eliminate the stigmas of the prison line and get to know who the families are we will begin to heal our communities and eliminate the cycle of social toxins so prevalent today.

If they have all my numbers and my child, they have me whether they want me or not, so let’s change things up by simply saying, I see you and I care.  

Love,

Momma Kate