Today will forever be known to me as your “gotcha day.” It’s the day the system got you and changed the course of our family forever. No more family trips or late night runs to McDonald’s. Instead, as your mom, I learned fast how to negotiate the systems that would allow me to talk with you, write to you, see you, speak to you, send you money and negotiate for your future.
As parents, we never raise our kids to be incarcerated. I did such a terrible job of preparing you for this experience. All those years of homeschooling and arts projects don’t help now. Maybe the summer camps on survival skills serve you to be resourceful with what you have. As a parent of incarcerated young person, it’s impossible not to fault ourselves at some level. What could I have done differently? Why didn’t I find more help? In my case, I see glimmers of choices that led to the unimaginable. But mostly, I am horrified at the way the system failed you and me especially as a single mother looking for help. I exhausted every community service available from primary care physician to local emergency services. Every step of the way we were told there wasn’t help due to the pandemic. I wonder how many people were incarcerated during the pandemic related to not finding the services they needed? Who is measuring those casualties?
On this anniversary of your gotcha day I am not the person I was those years ago. I’ve got more gray hair and a different outlook on the world. The rose-colored glasses have long been discarded, and in their place is a discouraged perspective on how we treat the ones we lock up, and a giant disappointment in Vermont as the state I chose to raise my children. We can do so much better.
— Jen Canfield