Original submission by the author.

Welcome to PJP’s newest special project, “Love, Mom.” For this collection, we have invited mothers to share their perspectives and experiences surrounding incarceration. We hope that this project will give you, our reader, a better understanding of the impacts of incarceration on families across the country. To view more pieces from the “Love, Mom” collection, please click here. The transcribed version of this piece has been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Dear J. and J.,

First and foremost, it is my wish that you both know how very much I love and miss you. It is important also that you know that my being away from you is no reflection of the love I have for you both. 

If I could rewind time and do things differently, would I? Should I? Because I feel that my period of confinement has only helped me grow into the woman and mother I am today. 

Each person in this life reaches a critical point where personal growth is essential. This journey was just that for me. However, as a mother, it is my duty to ensure that neither of you two follow these same steps into a destination of such adverse magnitude. I never want for either of you to experience the harsh realities that await people behind these walls. So I will do my best to prevent this from happening. This is not the future I envision for you two. 

I foresee you, my young kings, experiencing all of the love, happiness and success that your hearts can hold. You are both exceptional young men whom I am proud to call my sons! You are talented and highly intelligent, and there is no height to which you cannot soar. You are destined for greatness, and it is my belief that you will reach it as I stand behind you as the wind beneath your wings. 

I love and cherish the relationships that I have with you both. It feels great to know that although I have made a grave mistake by leaving you behind, you loved me enough to forgive me and were still willing to remain connected. That means the world to me and I thank you for that!

Though we have been apart for so long, our wait to be reunited is almost over. Having survived this separation, our bonds have been strengthened by time and distance. We are stronger than ever before! We are stronger and will be together soon. 

Chanell Burnette

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Chanell Burnette

Chanell Burnette is a writer incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Virginia.