By Eric Finley #C09900
“Where’s My Daddy?”
“He’s gone to prison.”
These words are a precursor to the destruction of yet another American family unit by the meat grinder that is our criminal justice system. While innocent children fall to the wayside in the wake of this incarceration machine, they become collateral damage in a way we are losing as a society.
Welcome to the front lines of America’s war on crime. It is a battlefield littered with confused and lonely children, who have lost one or both of their primary caregivers.
In my own lifetime, I’ve been both a victim of this process as a child, and a perpetrator of it as an adult. At four months of age, I permanently lost my mother when the criminal justice system took her away and I became a ward of the state. On January 16, 1990, my own three month old son was harnessed with a similar fate when federal agents arrived at our home with my freshly minted marijuana trafficking indictment. My son and I have not seen each other since that cold morning.
This issue was brought sharply into focus for me recently when a man I barely know approached me with a humble request for help.
Antonio is about my age, and his metal bunk is within sight of mine. I watched him push his walker toward me, and I was surprised when he stopped next to me and remarked, “I see you spend most of your time writing.” He hesitated for a moment, then he added, “I can’t write very well because I shake so much.”
Antonio then pointed to the manuscript I was working on, and he told me, “You must be good at saying things on paper.”
I smiled at this compliment, then I listened as Antonio went on to tell me about his wife passing away, leaving him alone with two young children to care for. At that time, Antonio was already disabled from a gunshot wound he sustained earlier in life.
As a single Black parent, he managed to care for these two children for roughly a year before becoming ensnared in our criminal justice system.
Antonio received an eight year sentence, and his children became wards of the state. Now, after more than a year spent fighting the courts, he’s just been granted the right to correspond with his children.
He shared all of this very personal information with me, then he was humble enough to look directly at me and say, “I’m not very good at writing, and my hands shake really bad, so could you help me write a letter to my kids?”
This man impressed me with his straight forward request for assistance, so together we created a nice letter for his two children. With the aid of the Lutheran Services Organization, the letter went to the kids.
The determination and bravery of this man has given me the inspiration to attempt locating my own son, a process made nearly impossible by a lack of funds, access to public records, or social media outlets. Many inmates like myself have no outside contacts or family, further hampering these types of efforts. I have not been able to locate a single organization willing to help.
Children of all races and ages are victimized by a cold and efficient incarceration machine that infects our society generation after generation.
Minorities are particularly victimized by this process. Once a family becomes caught in this repeating cycle of incarceration and abandonment, our dysfunctional criminal justice system just keeps grinding them up.
This means there is a very good chance my son will be incarcerated, if and when I find him. And he may have children.
From where I now sit, we cannot bring about any change, and the madness continues, unchecked…
Write the author at Eric Finley #C09900 19000 SW 377th St. Florida City, FL 33034