by Peter Twitchell
When it comes to incarceration, we need to practice, first and foremost, understanding. There are at least five (5) people that are affected by this dilemma. And, it’s a worldwide problem, not just here in Alaska, but everywhere.
When a parent gets incarcerated, there are children involved. Society as a whole needs to be sensitive to the needs of the ones being punished for their mistakes, and the children who are more or less, abandoned by the parent(s) serving time.
The incarcerated parent is hanging in limbo, and not really certain about the welfare of his/her children. It can be frustrating, depressing when it comes to the fear of the unknown. This is a very desolate area to wander in. The incarcerated parent made a mistake, like all of us do.
The rest of us sometimes make mistakes that we aren’t held accountable for, because it’s not obvious to the rest of society. So, let’s agree to that, we all make mistakes and do our time, either behind iron bars or in our psyche. We all need to learn to forgive ourselves for mistakes we make, and move on with the understanding to learn from our mistake.
Our children can only tolerate being left alone with feelings of abandonment and not cared about for so long. As a community we need to pick up the slack. Children, especially those in the elementary years of their lives don’t understand why they’re not getting the love and attention they need from parents.
I like the fact some prisons have allocated specific areas within their prison compound to re-unite parents with their kids, where they can feel free to hug their children and tell them they love them, and children feel loved.
As a society we need to do more to help these children with absent fathers and mothers. Our tribal organizations in Alaska, I believe, can have a hand in helping kids to understand the dilemma they have found themselves in, reassuring them.