Dear ESME Sisters,
Here you never have to shut down. Here is where you will be supported and uplifted. This is the place where you can rest all burdens of societal judgment, shame, fear, and isolation. Here is where you will find your sisterhood.
Asha Bandele writes, “The theatre of punishment and criminal justice is vulgar. It’s a fang-toothed monster that wants to shame and humiliate. Yet shame and humiliation is the least effective and worst teacher. Its effects extend beyond the prison and the person for whom it is intended. . . . We live in this place where shame and humiliation is the rule, and the effect of these things lasts for generations.”
Being the wife, mother, daughter, sister, or any loved one of someone who is incarcerated is like membership in a secret society—a secret society of women warriors who journey hundreds of miles under the cover of night, who bare their souls in monitored phone calls and scrutinized letters, who bring rays of love and light to dismal brick-and-mortar visitors floors, and who shine as beacons of hope in the most hopeless of circumstances.
How do I know? Because I’ve been there.
I’ve counted down the years until a loved one’s return. I’ve listened to a girlfriend surrender to both the system and the struggle only to begin again. I’ve called a mother to say that her son’s appeal was denied and he won’t be coming home. I’ve witnessed U.S. marshals escort men out of courtrooms over the woeful sobs of wives and children who would be physically deprived of husbands and fathers, respectively, for years to come.
Surviving the incarceration of a loved one takes support—by way of community, information, and resources. It is a fight not easily won. The prison system is designed to segment families, place colossal financial burdens on those left behind, create confusion in the hearts and minds of innocent children, and perpetuate feelings of “otherness” and despair. Its aim is to break your imprisoned loved one and you. It can and will—if you do not shroud yourself in love, understanding, compassion, and encouragement from people who have walked or are walking in your same shoes. Here at ESME, you will find all the support you need, whether it be advice from one sister to another in our Incarceration Sister Chat; insightful articles about and interviews with survivors of the prison system; information on where to access needed services on our Resource Page.
You will not do this alone, and you don’t have to do this alone. You have found your tribe, and we welcome you. Let’s stay connected—I’m just an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supporting you on your journey,