Family Reunification after Incarceration

Some people say that when you are incarcerated you have to learn to live inside the prison walls and leave the outside world on the outside. The funny thing is that life on the outside goes on without you and you find yourself grasping for a glimpse of it.

There are others who believe that holding on to the outside world is imperative to progress behind the prison walls. They spend countless hours on the telephone, and they receive frequent visits. I wonder how they would cope if they were incapable of affording those expensive phone calls. When I was locked up, prison phone calls ranged from three to four dollars for a 12-15 minute phone call. Visits were such a financial strain on my family that I saw my loved ones once a year at best. For eight years I was held in a federal prison eight hours from home. Life didn’t’ stop for my family, but for me it felt like time was standing still.

Now that I have returned to my family I’m in the thick of things. I have bills, relationship issues and family crisis to contend with. To some of my family members I’m a stranger. To others I’m like a figment of their imagination that has all of a sudden become a reality. I want to feel closer to them, build a bond and become an intricate part of their lives, but the time apart has severed our ties to a huge extent. The damage is seemingly irreparable, yet, like when I was in prison, life keeps happening, like “one wave pushing on another.” Trials keep coming, people are growing up, babies are being born and people are dying.

Video: How family relationships help you stay out of jail

At times I want to ask life to slow down to allow me to catch my breath; then, I realize it is just life doing what it does. And, I understand how blessed I am to share in these experiences: the good, the bad and the indifferent. Unlike when I was incarcerated and helpless when things occurred on the outside, today I can be actively involved in the lives of my family members.

Today I can make personal choices to improve my own life and I have been blessed with internal and external resources to help others improve as well. My feet and hand are no longer bound, I’m free. That’s refreshing.

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About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 


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