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A woman holds a letter and envelope in her hands
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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.

I sit in my cell and wait for a mail call in hopes of getting a letter from M. or A. The letters are few and far between. 

The first year, there was no mail from them. Their letters went unopened at home because they were so mad at me for going back to prison. I had let them down yet again. In going to prison a second time, I had turned their world upside down. 

In the first letter I got from my son, he said that no matter how long I had to be gone, he would always love me. The letter from my daughter was much harsher. She wrote to me and said, “Mom, you want me to be able to tell you anything and want me to be honest, so here it is: I love you and I am supposed to look up to you, but right now I don’t want to be anything like you. When you get to come home, if you go back to jail, I will not want to talk to you. I will not want to write to you.” 

My daughter tried to take her life eight months into my incarceration. This is the hardest thing I have ever been through, and I carried so much guilt for not being there. I felt as if I were the reason she did not want to be in this world anymore. 

My daughter now goes to therapy and is on depression and anxiety medicines. She has truly opened my eyes to how I want to live my life, what is important to me and how life is not promised to us tomorrow. I am currently in the high school program. This semester, we are both in the same course. She finds this humorous. 

I write both M. and A. a letter each week to tell them how things are going with me and to inquire about what is happening with them. Although this time away has hurt us all deeply and left us with lifetime scars, A’s honesty and harshness is what it took for me to open my eyes. We are now working on mending the heartache I have caused her. I am very aware now that my choices and actions not only affect myself, but also everyone close to me. From now on, my decisions will be thought out thoroughly, and I will consider how they affect everyone.

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.

Brandie Perry is a writer and mother incarcerated in Texas.