Family in Prisons

A familial relationship is an important part of any human’s life. The connection of someone more than platonic and perhaps deeper than a romantic, physical attraction, is necessary to the societal development of a person and (in healthy relationships) creates connections that can run deeper than even societal mores.

When we held our discussion with Jimmy Santiago Baca, he discussed how some of the inmates he worked with built homes for birds that would later become their families; when those houses were destroyed and the families separated, the women rebelled and even added more time to their sentences. In that moment, the connections they made to their bird-children were worth more than their freedom, but I think it ran deeper and was more about the familial connection that they lacked behind bars.

The Megan Comfort reading focused on those left on the outside, rather than those within. In her chapter, her focus seemed to be not only on the strain of familial ties, but also on the constraints placed on those”free” women who are still living within the confines of the incarceration system. While in the beginning, Comfort focuses on the sentimentality of the relationship between Grace and her husband, she later drifts more into the scholarly analysis of control in relationships straddling prison walls. While I think that, naturally, is important, I think it largely misses the point of human nature requiring that familial relationship between loved ones. I believe that, instead, Waselchuk better captures that need to have real, human connection in her photographs of the hospice volunteers. Though these men have no outside relationship, they still care for each other even if there is no real for the volunteer to do so. That connection, that wholesomeness, is lost as Comfort furthers her discussion. While I’m sure that sympathetic attitude will return later in her book, as far as her sort of introduction/prospectus of sorts goes, it’s hard to really see her subjects as anything more than that: subjects.

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