Dad Behind Bars

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80/365: Prison cells

Growing up not being able to go to my dad for guidance has really had an impact on my life.

My father went to prison when I was 11 years old, and he is still serving time. I visit him every month. Each time he looks like a different person: older and tired, as if he hasn’t slept for days.

Not having my dad around has been tough, but weirdly normal. Many women around me lack father figures. My grandfather was in prison, my best friend’s father is currently in prison, and so are many of my uncles and male cousins. In the African American community, 11% of black youth grow up with a parent incarcerated. That’s compared to less than two percent of white youth.

When men are sent to prison, it doesn’t just change their lives, it also affects the women and kids they leave behind. There’s an emptiness that I don’t even know how to describe. Since my dad hasn’t been around since I was a kid, I don’t even know what I’m missing. All I know is his absence.

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