The Invisible Bars of Family Incarceration

     On July 1, 2018 my family’s life was abruptly changed. We are what most would consider a typical family of 7 that includes my husband, four children and my mother in law.

My husband and I.
Our 4 kids and my mother in law.

Our life is pretty normal. We live on a quiet cul-de-sac in a nice neighborhood. We’ve had decent relations with our neighbors although they have bordered on rocky at times but that’s life right? You do the best you can and keep it moving at the end of the day. We’ve never had the problems that arose that day and I never would have fathomed that something like that would happen to us. Let’s take a trip back down memory lane for a second if you will.

     It was mid June in Richmond, Virginia when my husband and I made the trip across town to Motley’s Auto Auction to purchase a used SUV for our family. We had made this trip many times before, purchased vehicles at this auction before and were feeling positive about getting what we were looking for. Minutes away from our exit on the highway my husbands’ Chrysler 300 began to overheat. As the temperature gage continue climbing to that dangerous red zone smoke began billowing from under the hood. Thankfully we made it to Motley’s and was able to park the car safely. Flustered but not deterred we went ahead with our original plan – find a SUV or newer model van to accomodate all of us comfortably. We had tired of taking two cars to family outings or events. It was fun at times but we were hoping to find something that would seat 7-8 people comfortably. The bickering and musings that splitting up in two cars caused was often times hilarious. You’d have some that wanted to ride with me in my car…Renzo – my silver Benz because it goes fast, really fast. It was smaller than my husband’s car and sporty so we’d be moving with the wind in my car.

Then you’d have the others than wanted to ride in Dad’s car…the silver Chrysler 300 that was more muscle than sport. Rysler as we affectionately called her was loud, aggressive, the hemi engine almost growled loudly when driven. His car was big and comfortable; our luxury Sedan that I had used to drive for Uber and Lyft for a little till I was rear ended a year ago.

We also had a white Dodge Caravan that needed work and an old Dodge pickup truck that we only moved to haul stuff back and forth to the dump. A month before I had sold another white van we had to try to make room to get another vehicle. With my husband’s car overheating we were hopeful and determined to find something else soon. That day we purchased a Ford Expedition and a Nissan Altima. We drove both cars home with some trouble but we made it. Both cars needed work but were driveable. Later that day we were able to go back and drive his car back home and parked it out front of our house with the newest additions to our fleet across the street from our house. Our regular mechanic works a full time job in addition to working on the vehicles so his schedule was tied up at that time.

I remember that Saturday my husband and I sat on our porch just pondering what to do with all of these cars that we had. Who could we get to work on our cars and get us rolling safely? I’d like to say that God answered our prayers but now I would tell you that the devil heard our woes and sent to us, our next door neighbor, I’ll call him Stan. They had only been living next door for a few months and we barely had any interactions up to that point.

Stan approaches my husband and I and asks what’s wrong with his Chrysler. My husband explains that it’s overheating to him. At this point Stan says that he works on cars and he’d be glad to take a look at it for us. My husband allowed him to and he convinced us that he could fix it. Stan had asked to buy our Dodge Pickup truck with Redskins detailing a month before and I had turned him down because my oldest son is a Redskins fan, we inherited the truck from my father in law, also a Redskins fan who had passed away and I wanted to fix it up for him. Now the ball was in Stan’s court, we had just bought two vehicles and needed to make space in our crowded cul de sac. The deal was Stan would be given the two vehicles – the Redskins truck and the white van if he could fix the Chrysler and the Expedition. We moved way too fast because by Monday we had signed over the titles to both cars, given the keys and possession of both vehicles to Stan although he wasn’t done with the repairs on our cars.

For two weeks Stan would work on the Chrysler, Expedition and the Altima, being paid cash by my husband as well in addition to the two vehicles we gave him. There were numerous parts purchased and returned back and forth between AutoZone and Advance Auto. By July 1st, all of the cars that Stan had been working on still weren’t fixed and I had been breaking down intermittently from one vehicle to the next. My husband had been in and out of the emergency room with complications with his Diabetes prior to this so I was dealing with Stan while my husband slept.

That morning I had returned a starter to AutoZone that he had dropped and broke although he told me to tell the store that the part came broken. I didn’t like lying on his behalf but at this point I wanted my vehicles fixed and I didn’t want my husband to wake up and have to deal with the situation. I was hoping it would be fixed and I could give him the good news. No such luck. The truck was still making that same screaching noise when it was started up and the Chrysler was still overheating. Stan now advised that it was an engine problem in the Chrysler. Already I knew that wasn’t good. The Chrysler’s new engine wasn’t 3 years old and we had just replaced the tranmission not a year ago when this had happened. I had a bad feeling that Stan wasn’t being honest or he may not have had the experience or skill that he was claiming he did.

To make a long story short when my husband woke up and heard the news, he asked Stan what he intended to do to fix it. My husband had paid him very well for his work and given him the two cars and none of our vehicles were in good working condition. I knew something was lurking in the air when Stan started to spaz out on our porch. He started complaining about not having his own car, a license or money to pay us back. My husband wanted our money back. Stan had no money to pay us back. The two men went from speaking to arguing and it continued to escalate and get louder inside my home. I tried my best to intervene but before I knew it Stan was throwing the keys at my husband across the room. Stan hit my husband first. A fight ensued. Amidst the struggle I was punched in the face by Stan. I was upset because I was trying to break it up and now I was hit. Mind you my younger children and mother in law were downstairs on our 3rd level unaware of the fight that was going on in our kitchen. Eventually my oldest son and I were able to break the fight up and push Stan out of the house.

In a matter of minutes there were policemen, ambulances and fire trucks in and around my cul-de-sac. My husband who had defended himself and our family was being questioned by the police. He was cooperative with police and their investigation while they sorted out what to do. Truthfully they questioned arresting my husband as it was self defense inside our home however due to the extent of the injuries and the lies that were told by Stan and his fiance’, six hours after the assault in my home, my husband was arrested. I cried as I watched the officer put my husband in handcuffs but they assured me they would take good care of him, and make sure he was as best he could be under the circumstances. Hell, they even apologized for having to take him to jail. They had just spent the last 6 hours in my house with my family. It sounds crazy but the police officer and my family talked, joked and he even gave us his own free decorating advice on how we could re-arrange our living room. I was heartbroken and I had to explain to my children that Dad was going to jail. I was able to bond him out around 2:30am and glad to get him back home.

The next day we woke up, his nerves were still on edge so he ran out to go to the convenience store for cigars. My husband never made it back home because he was pulled for running a stop sign when he thought someone was following behind him. The vehicle that my husband thought was following him was a undercover police car. They pulled him and arrested him on the spot because he had his legal, registered gun in the vehicle too. They didn’t care that it was left in there by me. They didn’t want to hear that we didn’t know that he shouldn’t have had his gun on him or even in the house anymore since he was arrested hours before. I watched officers arrest my husband for the 2nd time in less than 24 hours. I was traumatized and now I had to go back home and tell our kids that Dad was locked up again. This time he was denied bond. I had to secure him an attorney before they would even consider giving him another bond. It took me a week to secure him a great attorney. By the 7th of July, my husband was free to come home albeit with an ankle monitor that would only allow him to go to church, the doctor, the gym and to the courts. In the meantime we had put off celebrating 4th of July until he was free. That day I cooked, cleaned and cooked some more to commemorate my husband’s so called freedom. We could finally celebrate! Dad was back. The week he had been gone had been hell.

Every time I talked to him over the phone my heart hurt to see him, to touch him, to feel him wrap his arms around me and sooth me, telling me that everything would be okay. I kept my strength up for my kids who missed their Dad so much too. My husband has been in our children’s lives every day since their inception. He went to all the appointments. He was the first one they saw when they were born. He cut the umbilical cords and then placed them in my arms. We are family. That was the longest week ever. There were so many trips to the jail to take money, medicine and get to see him briefly. It was hard y’all. My heart hurts now just remembering the broken look on his face. He was hurt that he had let us down and put himself in a position where he could not be here for us. I was hurt because I knew he didn’t deserve to be locked up. Yet I kept my faith in God strong and I tried to make sure everyone else around me, had theirs up too. I had found him a great attorney by the grace of God who did exactly what he claimed he could do – which was get my husband out and back home with us quickly.

It was truly Christmas in July when I was able to give my children back their father whom they missed terribly. My husband plays video games with them, he talks to them – they have their favorite shows they watch together. He’s a great Dad, always has been. We resumed life as best we could. The vehicles still weren’t fixed or running properly and now my husband was restricted to our home for the next 3 months. Summers are usually good times for us. We get Season Passes to Kings Dominion yearly, so we normally do that a couple times a week. We drive to Virginia Beach and frequent the outlets at Williamsburg. We dine out alot, and go to movies. We’re a normal family that spends a great deal of time together. It’s not very extravagant, the things we do but we pride ourselves on keeping an active family lifestyle that allows our children to experience many things in their life.

Still he was home and that was the main goal, the conditions in the jail were deplorable. It was over-crowded, the rules and how-to’s weren’t clear, the disorganization of the system as a whole was rampant. Nobody had a straight answer for anything. The people that work in the system were jaded and uncaring. They just had a job to do and they didn’t care about my husband or our family. They didn’t care that our kids had been crying nightly for the return of their Dad. Reuniting was soothing for us all. Yet with the stipulations set forth, it was still very difficult to manneuver around and get things done without his help. For three months I was the sole person in charge of all matters outside the house, I did all of the driving except when he had to go weekly to pay his GPS monitor fee and above all my husband wasn’t allowed to work. So I had to find a job quickly to help with the mounting bills and thank God I did.

My husband’s case was concluded on yesterday with 3 of his charges being dismissed and 1 he pled guilty to – the gun charge, a felony that had been reduced to a misdemeanor. He was free to go home minus the ankle monitor that had been secured to his leg. We were finally free. I say we were finally free because my whole family was on home incarceration too. I did the best I could to keep them entertained and engaged during the process but there was little I felt comfortable doing without him outside our home. We are a team and was used to doing things a certain way. Plus the cars weren’t reliable to do more than trips close to the house. My husband couldn’t watch my oldest son finish out his basketball season this Summer because he couldn’t leave the house. There were parties and get togethers we missed because I didn’t want to go without him. We couldn’t go on dates or just take rides together as we did so carefree. Trying to keep his spirits up and his mind strong was a task. Some days were better than others. Yet me made it through. But we have been forever changed. I now know that when one family member is locked up – if they have children, loved ones, anybody that cares for them – they are too locked up. The invisible bars of family incarceration is real and my heart and prayers go out to all the families affected by it. It is true that when people commit crimes their needs to be a process for investigation, discipline, consequences or whatever. There needs to be a better system in place to protect families, to keep families in tact because I see how the incarceration process can be detrimental to the survival of families.

I’m praying for our nation and our world. We need more understanding. We need more empathy. We need actual rehabilitation, or case and family management to help people overcome whatever issues are plaguing them. People need help.

My family has been forever changed. We now know the detrimental effects on family incarceration and what it means to be behind invisible bars. I pray your family never has to experience anything of the sort.

Take care of each other!

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#invisiblebarsofincarceration

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