This piece is about a little boy named Marcus. He’s ten years old. In 2005, his father shot his mother and now he’s growing up without either parent. I don’t want to seem casual or careless by introducing him like that, but those are the facts. I wish they weren’t.
I’ve worked on this article longer than any other I’ve ever written; I started in August. Most of that time I spent looking for a family in this situation that was willing to speak about their experiences. I knew the family would be a dramatic vehicle to describe the side of incarceration that we don’t read in the papers. The man does the crime, and the family does the time.
Marcus is just one face of incarceration. Those are the words of his older sister, and now caregiver, Azure. But the issue is bigger than any one child. How many children in the U.S., in Wisconsin, have lost a parent to jail or prison? It’s impossible to say. Nobody keeps track. But Linda Ketcham of Madison-area Urban Ministry said it’s safe to bet the number is close to 2000 in Dane County alone.
Research and common sense tells us children of incarcerated parents are going to struggle. Most of them have less support, money, and stability at home. They are more likely to continue the cycle of incarceration. They are going to face negative stigma for the crimes their parents committed. And they will need outside help if they’re going to have the same opportunities as other children. Problem is, federal funding for mentoring children of prisoners will soon be eliminated nationwide.
So what do we do? I don’t really know…I’m a reporter, not a preacher. But I can start by getting the story written. It may not fix anything, but it might spread awareness. We have to know we have a problem before we can fix it.