A coping mechanism

Alison Coleman struggled to support her two children while her husband served a 25-years to life sentence in a New York state prison for robbery.

She grappled with social and emotional isolation, with illness and financial hardship, and she faced the tensions at home that are common between parents and teenagers…but she did so single handedly.

While statistics and political attitudes about incarceration rates in America are closely tracked, the human stories of prisoner families—like Ms. Coleman’s—are virtually unknown because this exploding yet unaccounted-for population is viewed with suspicion and rejected as guilty by association.

I request you–the public–to support this project as it tries to create an online video community for prisoner families even as social stigma and iron bars conspire to keep them fragmented and fearful.

Your support will fund the purchase of four entry-level consumer video cameras and tapes. Lives in Focus will train prisoner families to use these loaned cameras on their visits to prisons and around their homes to document their lives and struggles.

Lives in Focus has already arranged to conduct workshops around New York State to show prisoner families how to capture compelling video and audio. Many families have expressed their enthusiasm in participating.

The project will show Americans and the world the social cost of imprisonment in the United States beyond the political or “get tough on crime” perspective.

Here is an excerpt of an interview with Ms. Coleman, now 56, shortly after Jay was released from prison after 25 years. She talks about how “little lies” told by children of prisoners is a survival strategy and not incompatible with being good people.

But with your support, prisoner family members will instead interview each other and capture shots of their personal lives without strangers in their midst.

For more information on supporting Lives in Focus, please click here.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What coping mechanisms have your children used while a parent was incarcerated?

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About Sandeep Junnarkar

Sandeep Junnarkar is the founder and editorial director of Family Lives Behind Bars.