Motherhood Behind Bars — Prison Fellowship
Letters From Inside
by Jennifer of Shakopee
I am going to tell you the heartache, joys, and pain of mothering from the inside of prison walls. This is probably one of the hardest subjects I have ever written about. I am not proud about coming to prison and the time I’ve spent away from my only son, but God needed to save me from the life I was living, or I wouldn’t have been a mother much longer.
I’m 33 years old, and I am serving a 58-month sentence at Shakopee. I’ve been away from my son since he was 11.
Being a parent from inside is a hard task, if not impossible. If you’re not fully committed to yourself and your child, you might as well forget about being a parent at all. When I first came to Shakopee, I was so devastated at what I had done to my son’s life that I could not forgive myself or anyone else that hurt me along the way. I didn’t eat, I dropped 25 pounds, and I thought my son would never forgive me.
‘HOPE AND A FUTURE’
I am not proud about coming to prison, but God needed to save me from the life I was living.
A month after coming to prison, I enrolled in the Prison Fellowship® Academy, and slowly things started to change for my son and me. He started to hear a difference in my voice, a “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Through Prison Fellowship, I learned to forgive. I learned who I am in Jesus Christ and what He did for me. This newfound forgiveness started to change me — mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My son was able to see and hear this, which brought him a lot of hope.
Together, we made it work. I found little ways to show my son his worth and value in Jesus Christ, too. Soon enough, we were praying over the phone together. He would pray for his step-grandfather who had cancer. I learned how to communicate God’s Word to my son, and this changed our lives. I can only credit this change to God working through the Prison Fellowship Academy.
I wrote my son a letter asking for his forgiveness. He read it, kept it, and said it was what he needed to hear.
I had to work hard to show my son how much God has changed me, and what is in store for our future with Jesus Christ. Pretty soon, we were talking two to three times a day, [having] weekly video visits, and sometimes monthly visits in person. (He lives three hours away from the prison.)
I learned how to communicate with his father and we found some level ground to stand on.
I started to send my son care packages for every holiday — candies, magazines, and my crochet projects. When the time was right, I decided to write my son a letter asking for his forgiveness with words I learned through the Prison Fellowship program. He read it, kept it, and said it was what he needed to hear.
I say that parenting from the inside is filled with heartache, pain, and joy because this is the truth. But there is also joy in what God has done for us. Joy is seeing my son succeed all on his own, figure out his strengths, and ask for help. This might not have happened if I hadn’t come to Shakopee. I would still have been in a codependent abusive relationship, and my son would have been always trying to save his mom.
I trust God and have faith that He has a future for us, plans to prosper and not to harm.
‘REMEMBER THOSE IN PRISON’
One in 28 children in America has an incarcerated parent. Women like Jennifer face enormous difficulty in maintaining relationships with their children from behind bars. For many, Mother’s Day is just another way to mark their absence in their children’s lives.
As you celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we ask that you take a moment to pray for the incarcerated mothers of America. Ask God to help families separated by incarceration to experience reconciliation as mothers like Jennifer take positive steps toward strengthening and rebuilding their families.
For more information on how to help incarcerated mothers and their children on the outside, check out our resources available for friends and family members of prisoners. Discover the impact incarceration has on children and their caregivers, plus the various needs prisoners’ families face every day.
“Letters from Inside” is a blog series featuring incarcerated women at Minnesota Correctional Facility–Shakopee, where Prison Fellowship® runs one of its Academies. Over the coming months, you will hear perspectives from women who are not only serving time for crimes but are now trying to live their lives for Jesus behind bars.
This is the fourth installment in the series. For more “Letters from Inside,” click here.
Originally published at www.prisonfellowship.org on May 12, 2017.