Invisible consequences

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.



7 thoughts on “Invisible consequences

  1. I love that you write like you speak! I read this and literally heard your voice the whole time. I bet this story is going to be great; can’t wait to see the finished product.

  2. Mario, “Big Brothers Big Sisters” comes to mind when I read this.I have met several kids in this situation while working bike programs . A sad and dangerous spot for these kids to be in but there is help out there for them as long as there are people like You out there to tell the story and make the public aware of it. Thank You for caring.

    • Good call, Larry. The same federal grant which was eliminated will affect Big Brothers and Big Sisters as well–the ones which serve children of incarcerated parents. I realize that in tough times tough choices need to be made, but when it comes to those decisions, I’m curious to know how they determine which programs are vital and which are optional.

      Thanks for checking out the blog post, and I hope I can do the story justice. Take care, sir.

  3. I look forward to this story Mario. The fate of the poor, needy and disadvantaged have, unfortunately, always been in someone else’s hands, or not, depending if there was someone to help them. Marcus’ story is a sad one and I fear for his future without positive intervention. I too, question the wisdom of many of the cuts taking place in the current governmental environs. Perhaps there is a better way.

    Serene Dean

    p.s.- After spending time with you I can hear your voice through your written words, very successful!

  4. Hey Mario,

    Where are you at on this story? I can appreciate the fact that you put so much thought behind the pressure/honor of telling another person’s story, especially when that delicate story deserves to be crafted with a sense of dignity. In the end, I believe that the ultimate measure of the quality of our writing is that those whom we write about would respect the finished product. You could always share parts of your draft with Marcus and his care givers to test their reactions.

    Good luck!

    • I’m moving ahead with the story. I have everything I need to write it. The tough part in writing a story like this is to give enough detail to bring the story out and pull readers in, but not fall into the trap of sensationalizing the issues just to grab readers’ attention. I’ve spoken mulitple times with the family, and they know full well what I’m about to do. It takes a lot of trust on their part, so I give them a lot of credit and feel obligated to not let them down. The story will be up soon. Thanks for your interest, and thanks for reading.

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