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Keela Hailes Headshot

Not Always a Happy Mother's Day

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A note to moms missing their children on Mother's Day due to incarceration:

Mother's Day is upon us once again, this Sunday, May 11, moms everywhere will relish the attention lavished on them by their children, spouses and family, as they are shown special attention for, being a mom and all that comes with that very broad territory. However, as I look forward to that special day, I can't help but feel a sense of melancholy when I think of all the moms that will spend that day pinning for their children who are incarcerated hundreds of miles from while incarcerated in adult prisons.

You see, unfortunately, I empathize with these moms; my son and I were also separated on Mother's Day for years. While I was here in Washington, D.C., my son was incarcerated hundreds and hundreds of miles away from me and the rest of his loved ones. Every day in Washington, D.C., parents are being separated from their children because they are being sent to adult prisons in other states. All too often, these adult prisons are very far from home. Because Washington D.C. is not a state, and does not have a Federal facility, our children are sent to remote and often times inaccessible Federal adult prisons all across America. As a woman who has always prided herself for being a stickler for self-accountability, I'm not suggesting that my son should've gotten away with a slap on the wrists. However, research has shown that placing children in adult prison's, rather than juvenile facilities makes them highly susceptible to repeat criminal behavior, negative influence from adult prisoners, and physical and sexual abuse.

The separation that existed between my son and I put a damper on my special day. As I read the cards, and looked at the balloon's and stuffed animals that were given to me, my mind and heart were divided by two, here at home and also 1,500 miles away where my child was incarcerated with adults in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Although this was my very own special day, Mother's Day, It didn't feel right for me to smile and laugh whole heartedly. I couldn't help but contemplate the thought that my child's impressionable mind could be being infiltrated with advice from career criminals with whom he was incarcerated with, or worse, he was being either physically or sexually assaulted at that very moment.

In September 2003, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act to curtail the practice of children being placed in adult prisons. This act was passed because our children were being sexually preyed upon and victimized in adult's facilities because of the vulnerability that comes with being a youth. Yet, so many parents still sit up at night with their hearts full of worry and fear that their child may be the next victim, because the practice of sending our children to prison with adults unfortunately has not yet been totally eradicated!

So on this Mother's Day, my heart and thoughts are with the moms who know, all too well what's it like to have their hearts divided between two places, you are not alone.