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.”
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.