A Parent’s Love: From Behind Bars
What happens to the relationship between a parent and child when that parent goes to jail?
It’s something a local effort called Remain in Touch is addressing, giving parents serving time an experience that once seemed impossible.
9&10’s Megan Woods shows us why it works in this special report.
A parent’s voice, a life line, a connection in a situation when day to day contact just isn’t possible.
Founder of Remain in Touch Connie Eisenhart says, “I do not know their name, I do not know why they’re here, I just know that they are a parent that wants to record for their child.”
Connie Eisenhart is a former teacher who wants to continue to impact the most vulnerable children.
She gives inmates the chance to reach out to their children through reading.
“I taught special needs and in some respects this is a special need of a different kind. It was important to me that the inmates have an opportunity to stay connected to their family. Those people who do stay connected to their family are less likely to reoffend,” says Eisenhart.
The program provides incentive to parents, but the goal is to help the real victims here; the children, who pay the ultimate price.
Eisenhart says, “I saw those results of the disconnect, I saw the anger or the withdrawal the children that getting some of these books some of that would be eliminated.”
A small but simple gesture that lets a mother or father hold on to their role.
The inmate we spoke with chose to remain anonymous.
He says, “There’s a lot of different issues between different inmates that are in here like myself. I’m in here for child support as it is just because that I’m in here for child support doesn’t mean I’m a dead beat dad.”
There are certain criteria: the inmate must have a child from an infant up to 12 years old, a viable address and no restrictions about contact.
Every other week she visits these parents and allows them to choose from more than 200 donated books.
“The inmates are very intentional about the book they choose,” Eisenhart says. “They choose it because it’s a subject that they know they’re child is interested in, they choose it sometimes because it’s a story they heard as a child sometimes, because it’s a story they’ve already read it to their child
For the inmate it’s so much more than a simple phone call or letter.
One inmate says, “Because it’s been such a long time since I was able to sit down and read to them that’s the first thing that I thought of, it’s actually being able to get my voice to them.”
Connie puts the recording on a CD and mails it with the book to the child, helping make a memory during a time most would rather forget.
She says, “For this moment in time when they’re reading this book they are connected to their parent and vice versa. It becomes not just the story, but the voice and their presence; I think coming into their lives for that moment and that book."
Connie has helped 21 parents so far, 21 families connected despite the barriers between them. Something she didn’t expect to impact her as well.
“That’s more moving and more touching than I might have anticipated. I see every single parent that has come to me in this window of time is very committed to their family without exception they thank me when they leave.”