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These Kids Are Bad

One day last week I took my kids to the park and carried my camera along like I usually do. I took about 100 pictures of Sully and Bridgy playing on the swings and slides. I noticed a bunch of tweens and teens hanging around. They looked so out of place, so I took a snuck a few pictures of them, too.

After about an hour, one of the girls began talking to me and I asked her who she was with. I thought they might be a church youth group picking up trash as part of a Spring Break service project, but as it turns out, they were all wards of the court and their parents were in prison.

Later, I briefly chatted with one of the adult chaperones. I said, “They look sad,” and she said, “Don’t you feel sorry for these kids. These kids are bad.”

She laid on the park bench like this, covering her face from the sun, almost the entire time I was at the park. I converted the image to black and white and pixelated the logo on her shirt to protect her identity.

It would be inappropriate for me to publish most of the photos I took. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. These pictures are worth even more than that.

Given my long-running interest in female incarceration in Oklahoma including my recent work on behalf of Patricia Spottedcrow, I don’t believe my visit to the park was an accident. God, as “a man of sorrow and one acquainted with grief”, orders our steps. In these magical moments, I serve as the aperture through which light enters. I take the subject, which has found its way into my viewfinder, onto film and I share it with others. Who knows what miracle this awareness might bring?

I have written about female incarceration on this blog several times over the past three years. I invite you to visit the following links:

  • Oklahoma Women’s Summit
  • Troubling Statistics About Oklahoma Women
  • Moving in the Right Direction
  • Current Legislation: Task Force for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Oklahoma continues to incarcerate more women than any other state and has for the last 14 years. Our rate of female incarceration is twice the national average. And if that isn’t enough, we actually incarcerate more women than any other place in the entire world.

Today, more than half the women in Oklahoma prisons are mothers.

I am confident this will change. We already know that non-violent offenders who are incarcerated are more likely to re-enter the criminal justice system than if they are given alternative sentences. Such sentences include the renowned drug court, which has a 90 percent success rate. It’s just a matter of time.

Unfortunately, childhood waits for no one, and too many people think these kids are bad.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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9 Comments

  1. jen

    @MARFIRE STUDIOS – Thank you for your comment. It is very disturbing. I don’t think I will ever fully grasp the weight of the world on these kids’ shoulders. I do believe our awareness is the beginning of their miracle.

    @ANDI – Indeed, my friend. Bad stuff.

    @JEN HANCOCK – Yeah, I really don’t like to look at that pic of the girl on the bench. As one of my friends pointed out she’s practically in the fetal position. Horrible.

    Reply
  2. Andi

    Oh Jen, that is incredibly sad. The children suffer because of their parents actions, terrible.

    Reply
  3. jen

    @FRIAR – shockingly, the chaperone looked like a kid herself. I only knew she was the chaperone b/c she told the girl talking to me that they weren’t suppose to tell people they were from the shelter. Sad, sad, sad. You just can’t believe how haunting a couple of the pictures are. Gut-wrenching, rip your absolute heart out. God have mercy.

    Reply
  4. jen

    @STINSON – Thank you for comment. I agree. It made me hug my kids tighter and play at the park longer. I’m probably not ever going to get over those sad kids – all wanting for a mommy to play at the park with them. My photos are haunting. Thanks again for commenting. jen

    Reply
  5. Friar

    Indeed. And because He does, we (and those kids) may have hope. I’ll pray they have someone to tell them about it, or that I am that someone should I be given the chance.

    Reply
  6. jen

    @FRIAR – No, they were just hanging around. Some of them were playing on the equipment – a few of the younger ones were swinging, etc. But, the teens were just hanging around doing nothing. I think it was just an outing. I’m not sure. I didn’t want to ask any questions. When I asked who they were with the girl said they were from a shelter. I asked the chaperone if it was a homeless shelter. She said they were wards of the court and their parents had done bad things and had lost their kids. (And they’d learned to be be bad from their parents.) She said most of their parents were in jail. I hope this clarifies things.

    Reply
  7. Friar

    Yes, it makes more sense, and I still agree with you that the woman’s judgment was flawed, both in reaching her opinion and voicing it.

    I was concerned that this was some sort of Dickensian work-the-foundlings deal where the kids were being used for community service even though they themselves might not have done anything wrong. That would have been wrong too, but unlike the misguided chaperone’s opinion, it’s one that could have been reported if it had been the case.

    Reply
  8. Friar

    Were the children helping clean up the park simply because they were wards of the court? That doesn’t sound right somehow, I wonder if there’s more to it.

    But even if there is, I agree the chaperone’s comment was out of line.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Jen–
    Thank you for posting this on your BLOG. My heart goes out to these children — “Victms of Circumdtance.” No child is ‘BAD’ simply because a parent is incarcerated. These kids need all the love and support they can get. What they don’t need is a chaperone who tacks a NEGATIVE on them. She/he was out of line to make a statement like that, let alone to a stranger.
    Hugs– Gracie

    Reply

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