THE BLOG
12/15/2014 11:53 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

Mass Incarceration Has Affected Me My Whole Life

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My name is Jasmine Barclay and I'm not trying to politicize anything. What I am trying to do is talk about the problems that have affected my entire life, every part of it, and encourage other people to tell their stories, too. I want to reach out to people who've had some of the same problems I've had and I want to let them know they're not alone.

Incarceration has affected me my whole life. Not my incarceration, because I've never been in prison. I've never broken the law. I'm talking about my parents. My mother was arrested when I was about a year old, and it took 18 years before I could have a relationship with her. My father has been in and out of prison, too, and as a result through much of my life I've basically been an orphan in America even though I've known exactly who should have raised me.

On top of that, because of my upbringing, a lot of people don't think I can succeed in the world. They might not say it but that's what they think.

I don't remember my childhood. Or perhaps I never was a child. I was a girl who had to grow up too fast. Since the age of two, I have lived in nine different homes. Through all that I just wanted to find a place that is mine. I've often woken up in the morning and not known if I would be sleeping in the same bed again or somewhere else. It seemed like every time I turned around I was packing my bags again, bags which no one ever helped me pack -- cousins, friends, I've relied on others for help, but I was never allowed to stay in one permanent place.

No one ever asked me how I felt. I have carried the stress of money and I have carried the stress of loneliness and I have carried the stress of parents in prison. And I know that, with so many people in prison, there are a lot of other people who've also known this problem and also have had no one to talk to.

One in 28 children in the United States has a parent in prison. One in nine African-American children has a parent in prison. America incarcerates more people than any other country, and what people don't understand it that this has consequences for more than the people locked up. The solutions to these problems are complicated, but our tough-on-crime policies hurt families, they hurt a lot of people who didn't do anything wrong.

I got into filmmaking by accident when I joined an after-school program I thought might be interesting. but when I started doing it I realized I enjoyed doing it, and I made a lot of friends, so I stuck with it. Now I am a youth producer for Echoes of Incarceration. Echoes is an award-winning documentary initiative produced by youth with incarcerated parents. Echoes explores the issue of mass incarceration and its effects on families, and creates documentary films told from the life experiences of the filmmakers themselves. Basically, this program teaches young people like myself how to tell stories through film, and then we turn around and tell our own stories.

Social media has let a lot of people have a voice who didn't used to have a voice, but when I look around I still do not see a lot of people talking about their experiences with incarcerated parents. So let me tell you: There is no shame in your story.

Let me repeat myself: There is NO SHAME in your story.

I hope that groups like Echoes can spark a revolution in the way we talk about mass incarceration in America and the hidden victims in our society. I hope to be a part of that. I also hope to start my own non-profit one day to work with kids who have had the problems I've had.

There are a lot of ways you can join us in this fight to raise awareness to the problems mass incarceration causes for young people in America today. Give us a shout out in these comments, or tweet at me @echoesdoc, or on our Facebook page. Echoes has launched a Kickstarter, with a planned screening of some already completed work by young filmmakers like me, this December 17 at DCTV in lower Manhattan. I hope to see you there.