Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prison punishes inmates' families too, writer says

Asha Bandele draws from personal experiences in appearance at WFU

By Fran Daniel Journal Reporter

Published: February 22, 2009

Asha Bandele is well aware of how incarceration can destroy families.

Drawing from her own life experiences, she lectured on the effects of incarceration on American families yesterday in Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University.

"Our prison system makes it more dangerous for us to live," Bandele said. "It does not make it safer."

Bandele, who was the features editor of Essence Magazine from 2000 to 2004, is the author of four books, including The Prisoner's Wife: A Memoir.

Written in 1999, the book is still well-received today, she said.

Bandele married an inmate, Rashid Bandele, and has raised their 8-year-old daughter, Nisa, on her own.

Nisa is one of 2.4 million children living in this country who have one or more parents in prison.

Bandele said that women and others who have loved ones in prison are often harassed during visits.

Because prisons tend to be in faraway places, it is hard for some families to make visits.

She recalled how her husband was in eight or nine different prisons in the first three years of their daughter's life.

"Most of them were at least three hours away," she said.

She also said that when people get out of prison, they tend to have a hard time finding acceptance in communities. Some people don't want ex-offenders to live in their neighborhoods. As a result, families are often uprooted when their loved ones come home from prison, sometimes causing children to leave the only homes they have ever known.

Bandele's lecture was co-sponsored by Mothers for Justice of Winston-Salem Inc. and the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

The program also included remarks by Darryl Hunt, who served more than 18 years in prison for the 1984 murder of Deborah Sykes before he was exonerated.

The program ended with a question-and-answer session by a guest panel made up of Ingrid Hackett, a chaplain of the Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries; Angela Hattery and Suzanne Reynolds, professors at Wake Forest University; Mark Rabil of the N.C. office of the Capital Defender and the Wake Forest University School of Law Innocence & Justice Clinic; and Lyn Warmath-Boyd of Mothers for Justice of Winston-Salem.

Audience member Becky Hartzog, an associate chaplain at Wake Forest, said that the prison system is not helping inmates re-enter society.

"It costs the system so much -- financially, emotionally and spiritually -- by keeping people in prison," she said.

She said she hopes that Bandele's speech and the panel discussion will get people talking and help make them aware of the issues facing families of inmates.

Wandretta Kimber of Winston-Salem was also at the lecture.

All three of Kimber's sons have been in and out of prison. One of them will be sentenced Monday, she said, on a habitual-felon charge.

"It's just so devastating for me because this has been like a cycle for me for 20 years," she said.

"It kills me financially because at one time or another, I've had all three locked up at one time," she said.

■ Fran Daniel can be reached at 727-7366 or at

1 comment:

Austin said...

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