• COIP Research Team

Sacrificing: Maintaining the bond

By: Ravon Campbell (Howard University c/o 2020)

This blog post is the journal reflection from an undergraduate campus student who participated in the Howard University summer session course SOCI 002-80, entitled “Children of Incarcerated Parents” taught by Dr. Bahiyyah M. Muhammad in the College of Arts and Sciences within the Department of Sociology and Criminology. This assignment required directly impacted students, community members and incarcerated scholars to share their personal experiences in their own words. In this instance, the only grammatical edits were made to maintain the original narrative.

Due to a lack of communication and visits with my father who is incarcerated, I try my best to maintain our bond. He is never out of sight or out of mind, but forever in my heart, prayers, and thoughts. Typically, when someone goes off to prison, they are usually left for dead. Many incarcerated people have no family or friends to support them and keep their spirits lifted while facing adversity. They receive no mail, commissary, or visits from loved ones. A few are not even afforded the opportunity to make phone calls home. Because it costs money which most do not have. There are ridiculous fees for every service that they offer. If they could charge you to breathe, they probably would.

Even though they are being penalized for a crime they committed it is a lifelong sentence that they endure. Oftentimes, incarcerated people are doing a sentence for a crime they did not commit, like my father. He pleaded guilty to a charge back in February of 2005, while he was doing his state sentence. The FBI later came and double-charged him for a case he already pleaded guilty to and was serving a sentence for. When looking into his case, my father was already in custody serving time on the date that the FBI stated they began their investigation. To make matters worse his lawyer at the time took his money and represented an individual who was on his paperwork, which is unlawful. That is considered a conflict of interest. Besides that, after serving 8 years in the state, he was then transferred to a federal prison. He keeps getting denied his appeal because it was over a year of his sentencing. Not to mention he was in state prison and did not have the resources he needed to support his argument. As of today, he has done a total of 15 years. Seven years of which he had no business doing. Bill Clinton passed a law back in 1996 that states one must file for an appeal one year after being sentenced. It is frustrating because if it is a mistake on the behalf of the law enforcement, judges, or lawyers one should be afforded the opportunity to be able to allow their voice to be heard.

My father has missed out on so much of my life and especially all of my major accomplishments. While walking across the stage at my graduations, I always wished to have my father out in the audience rooting for his baby girl. Even sending me off to college. I am a first-generation college student. No one in my family has graduated from college, let alone left our small hometown in Florida. I am the first to leave the nest and I am talking 13 hours away from home by myself without any family and friends. My family was a bit sad and some even had to voice their negative concerns.

However, I believed in myself and I am big on following my purpose. God has a purpose for life. I saw the vision therefore I could not be mad at others who saw differently. They never saw a college graduate let alone someone who was well off. They never saw someone overcome so many battles that were meant for bad but came out on top. They could not fathom the idea. How could one blame them? All I knew was I was going to turn my dreams into reality. I know God protects the child who can hold their own, so I was going to do all I can and allow Him to handle the rest. I thank my father so much for his guidance on my spiritual journey. He has given me so much knowledge and wisdom about the creator which allowed me to have my own personal relationship and I could not be more grateful. He allowed me to be a witness to how powerful prayer is. After visiting him and feeling ill. He mentioned that it hurt him badly to see me like that. On the last day of visitation, because it was a weekend visit when I was heading back home, I felt rejuvenated. I was no longer coughing or felt ill. Once he called to make sure I was heading back and driving safely I heard him cough over the phone. I said, “dad are you ok”? He said, “yes I prayed to take on your sickness because I could not bear to see you like that. I am a man. I will pass it. There is not a thing in this world that I would not do for you as long as it is righteous. Know that I love you and care for you”. At that moment I was in tears. To know that you have someone in this world that genuinely has your best interest and your back no matter if the whole world is against you is truly amazing.

I am expecting my first child soon and for my father to be able to bond with his grandson would be great! I do not know a better teacher to teach him about life. In the meantime, he writes my son letters and I read them to him while he’s in my belly and I plan to continue when he makes his arrival to let him know how outstanding his grandfather is. Show him how much love his grandfather has for him. I gave my father the honor of naming my son after him. He found great joy in that. I am praying that he is able to watch him grow to the man he is destined to be and not from behind bars.

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