In my role as the Program Enrollment & Intake Manager at Concordance, I work with justice-involved individuals prior to their release from incarceration, talking with them about the Concordance Re-Entry Model and what our services could do for them. If and when they consent to our program, I support our participants through the pre-release phase of our program, fielding letters and phone calls from participants and their loved ones as they prepare for their transition home. An integral part of this phase is having our participants create their Life Plan, which details their goals post-release. One of the goals I most often discuss with participants is their desire and determination to reconnect and reunite with family.
Knowing that incarceration has a huge generational impact, with 10 million children in the U.S. experiencing parental incarceration at some point, the connection to family is paramount. Children of incarcerated parents may experience stigma and shame that impact their social interactions and learning. These children are more likely to experience depression, lower educational attainment, housing instability and homelessness, and more. Not only that, but the average decrease in family income is over 80% when fathers are incarcerated.
While incarcerated parents are clearly separated from their families physically, incarceration also impacts family contact in other ways, with prison facilities generally being located far from the communities where families live, prison visitation schedules may conflict with family work and school schedules. One of the bright spots for our participants who are still incarcerated is the anticipation of getting to see family again. Post-release, one of the biggest determinants of success for justice-involved individuals is family support.
I get a sense of accomplishment when I see participants who I worked with during their enrollment, in-take, and pre-release walking the halls and sitting in the meeting rooms of our St. Louis Center. Their courage and determination to show up every day and do the work is inspiring. You could walk up to any of our participants and ask them – who are you doing this for? Many, if not each one would say, “I am doing this for my family – for my kids, and my grandkids.” Knowing that this holiday season is the first time many of our participants are celebrating at home with their families, I asked several of our current participants what being home for the holidays means to them. I think you’ll feel as humbled as I did by their responses.
- “Being home for the holidays is different for me this year because I am sober. I haven’t been sober for Thanksgiving or Christmas in a long time. It’s not just being out of prison; it’s being free to enjoy the holidays with my family without having to rely on the dependency of me using, and possibly ruining the whole holiday because of my use.” Brian S. Concordance Participant, Class 26
- “Being with family! Gratitude. And most of all, the appreciation of life, of having life.” Sherry M. Concordance Participant , Class 27 ……………………………………………………………………….
- “All the way around it is me being humble and having an attitude of gratitude this holiday season. To make it and see a Christmas after nine years without my loved ones, the people that have been with me through thick and thin. Now I want to give back to the community, to those less fortunate than me, who maybe don’t have family to be with.” Cornell N. Concordance Participant, Class 26
- “Being home for the holidays has been joyous so far – it has been neat to see people in the spirit. When I got locked up, I didn’t have grandkids, and now I got 5 of them!” Byron P. Concordance Participant, Class 25