In our local jail, as I’m sure is the case in many jails, inmates are dressed in certain colors. For our jail, orange is the main color and red is the color one wears who can’t play by the rules behind the wall.
I decided last week to attend my son’s court session. Not coincidentally (cause that doesn’t happen), I had not scheduled myself to type on that particular afternoon, and the court date was several days earlier than I expected. Therefore, I knew all signs pointed for me to go, plus I wanted to hear what had actually transpired.
As I pulled up to the courthouse I could feel my blood pressure increase and my pulse begin to be a little quicker than normal. I purposely timed my arrival so that court would already be in session, because I did not want any opportunity to present itself whereby I would have to communicate with the victim of my son’s domestic violence outburst. She is not stable. As I sat in my car in the parking lot, I said a quick prayer, grabbed my phone and took a deep breath.
Here we go … stepping into that building has always been like “coming home”. Kinda weird, I know, but I had been walking those halls (at least in the old part of the building) since I was 15 years old. I worked there for 27 years, so it doesn’t cause me anxiety as I know it does some people. I saw several people I knew and when they asked why I was there, I was honest enough to tell them. They know me, they know the issues my kids have had.
I walked quietly into the courtroom and sure enough the judge was on the bench and the proceedings had begun. I spotted the person I was attempting to avoid and purposely sat on the opposite side of the room, at the end of a row next to law enforcement officers and waited. I then looked at the back of the heads of each male inmate lined up in the jury box and found my child and noticed he had on red. Not a good indication. Certainly not what I wanted to see.
I waited for my son to see me. As I sat there, I was able to text with a dear friend of mine that was sitting in the front of the courtroom. She had already told me that my son and his victim had been speaking prior to court beginning (which violates his bond conditions) and that he could get in trouble if it doesn’t stop. It seemed like I sat in that room for about 30 minutes before my son realized I was there. He happened to turn to the opposite side of where he had previously been looking and saw me. The minute his eyes made contact with me I simply mouthed I love you. He put his head down, shook his head no, and tears began to fall. Of course as you can imagine, that is not what his intention was. You can’t do that stuff when you’re on the chain with other guys. He looked back a few more times and I simply smiled. My whole purpose of being there was so that he knows he matters to me and so that I could hear what the allegations against him were.
I will say as a mother of two adult drug addicts it is never an easy thing to hear conversations about your child from a judge, a prosecutor or a defense attorney. To sit and listen to allegations and past criminal histories and even to have to sit and listen to people discuss your child’s mental health is disconcerting at best, and always heartbreaking and sometimes just plain old mind-numbing. For me, I’ve learned to shut down. Almost like I’ve learned to turn the knob to the off position until I am alone, most especially if I am in a court of law. I not only sat to hear the officer’s testimony of what had transpired on two separate dates, but I also then listened to his victim’s testimony. I will say only this about her testimony – I believed most of it – she recanted everything she had previously said – I believe she is mentally unbalanced – she incriminated herself on a few charges – and she helped him get his bond significantly increased and drew the judge’s anger to boot. So needless to say, it didn’t go well for my son.
When the hearing concluded, my son’s bond was significantly increased, a new court date was set, and then my son decided he needed to buck up a bit. Now isn’t that something. My husband’s statement to me was, “he had to go back hard”, which makes some kind of sense I suppose. In all of my years in the courtroom, I’ve seen my share of people who decided to “show out” in many different ways in front of everyone. As a mom, one who used to bring her children to the courtroom and courthouse with her to work, I was mortified, angry and saddened. It took a few officers to place him not-so-gently into a chair that he was refusing to sit in. At that point I chose to leave.
I think what bothered me the most was the conversation that took place outside the courtroom between myself and the two police officers who arrested him. As I came out into the hallway, I approached them, told them my son had not been raised to live the life he had chosen, and that he needed a good old-fashioned a**-whupping (sorry) for his behavior in court, but that the victim had some issues. Before I could finish what I was going to say, which was to thank them for their time and apologize for him (not sure why), the young female officer squared her jaw and her shoulders and informed me that my son has plenty of issues that should be taken care of and …
Hmm … yep, I’m a momma bear sometimes even still. That absolutely flew all over me. At about the same time a person I’ve worked with a very long time came up and I asked him to verify the statement I was about to give to the officer. I then turned to her and told her that one of the reasons my son was living in a pay-by-week motel was because I was the mom who refused to assist him with his lifestyle or his slow suicide via drug use. I also advised her that I was a parent who never made excuses for their children’s decisions, never bonded them out of jail, and never allowed them to bring stupid or chaos into my home. I did also have to let her know that I had graduated from that business and there wasn’t much I hadn’t seen or heard in all of those years. My acquaintance verified my statements and the officer went to apologize, but I didn’t need anyone too. I was angry at that point but swallowed, told them I’d probably said too much, thanked them for their service and left the building.
I say all of that for a particular reason. People need to not look at the parents or loved ones of drug addicts or incarcerated individuals and condemn us for their choices. In the business I was in, I spent a lot of time speaking with loved ones, family members, parents, or children of the person who was incarcerated and one thing that I saw was an attitude by entirely too many people in the criminal justice system to paint the loved one with the same broad stroke they’ve painted the offender. I worked extremely hard to show respect to an inmate’s parent, partner, child, aunt, uncle, what have you … because they were going through things as well and they should never be treated as less than me. But for the grace of God … there go I? Right?
I don’t know what my son has done to earn his red marks in jail right now. I do know that my love for him has never wavered. I have already sent him mail so he knows that he does matter. I will not pay for his phone, I will not buy him snacks, but I will communicate with him and see his face when I can so he knows that I love him unconditionally, even if I have no respect for his decisions. He is where he is today because of the life he chose. Just as my daughter is where she is today because of the life she chose. I didn’t choose that life for my children. What parent would really?
Honestly I’m not real sure why this still bothers me. I thought about posting something about my amazing parents and the celebration we had last night honoring their 56th wedding anniversary, but this still weighs on me.
I can only speak from the point of view of a mother who loves deeply two adults that have made horrendous life choices. I didn’t raise them and teach them to live as they have or as they did. I never prayed for this for them. I do not need to be judged by someone who does not understand the journey I’ve walked for these two people and the pain and disappointments, and yes, sometimes, embarrassment I’ve felt. They were raised to be honorable, respectful and caring. They were loved fiercely – and still are.
And here’s the thing … God still has a plan for them. For every single person behind a wall today, God has a specific intention. He also has that plan for those people’s loved ones. We suffer too. Our lives can be upended just as dramatically as that of a person who is incarcerated. Little people’s lives are forever changed – so I implore anyone who reads this to remember … there is a story behind every man or woman that walks into a courtroom to stand before a judge … and oftentimes there is resilience and an unmatched strength in the loved ones lives’ who are left behind. You see, the incarcerated individual knows where they are, knows how their day is going to unfold, knows who to avoid and when to not make eye contact, so to speak. Loved ones, well, we have our imaginations to run wild. It’s not easy.
I left work many days thanking God for my life and realizing my issues weren’t too bad. Now they seem to be much more magnified, but I still thank God every day for my life, and for my children’s lives, because He is the Author of our story, no cop, no judge, no prosecutor, no defense attorney can have the final say in our stories no matter who you are. The Alpha and Omega – the Beginning and the End – the Author and Creator of our lives is God. He is the final judge.