Family Stories

Nearly half of all adults living the United States have experienced incarceration in their family. Learn more about the impacts of America’s incarceration crisis from those who have felt its effects directly.

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Family Stories

Phil W.

“Emotionally, my father’s incarceration definitely affected the way I look at life.”
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“So I’m back in school, I’m working nights at the post office. And one day I’m on the bus headed towards campus when I get a call from my dad and he says, ‘Hey man I’m glad you picked up the phone.’ He says ‘I just got picked up by the FBI. I’m gonna need you to pick up your little brother. I left the key under the mat. And tell him that I’ve gone away for the night, but I’ll be back by morning.’”

Phil W., 28, did as his father asked and picked up his younger brother, Bronson, from school. But Phil’s dad, James, was not back by morning. It turns out his situation was more serious than the family originally thought, and their lives would be changed forever.

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James was arrested and sentenced to 27 years. Phil maintains that the judge set out to make an example of his father, and further that the length of the sentence is not justified. “My dad is the strongest person I know,” says Phil. “He’s the most optimistic person I know. I know he doesn’t deserve all the time that he got. They say that justice is blind but it is not impartial. I feel like justice was blind to everything that my dad did for the community and how his incarceration affects my family."

“My dad has always been in construction, since before I was born. His business was not about defrauding people. It was really about bringing value to a community that no one else sees value in. Leading up to him being put away, I already knew what I was going to do. I was in school for business, but it was a known thing that construction is what I was going to do. I was gonna try and help my dad turn around these inner city communities. With my dad going away, I was kind of forced to grow up a little faster. At that point, I didn’t really have a plan B.”

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According to the FWD.us report, Every Second: The Impact Of The Incarceration Crisis On America’s Families, nearly half of all adults living the United States have experienced incarceration in their family. One in five has, like Phil, had a parent incarcerated. Having a parent incarcerated caused economic hardship for Phil and his family; he was forced to hold a number of jobs at any given time, and many of his career plans had to be put on hold. The emotional toll could also be devastating. Both Phil and Bronson have experienced bouts of depression in the wake of their father’s incarceration. This is to say nothing of the many missed holidays and moments they can never get back.

“Emotionally, my father’s incarceration definitely affected the way I look at life. At first, I was very anxious. I didn’t know where to turn, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. Spiritually, my father’s incarceration tested my faith. I could barely pay rent. It was just a really bad situation… It definitely put me in a place where I lost a little hope, because my whole life my dad had been a great provider, and a great leader for me.”

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Phil has responded to the challenge, and maintains a strong relationship with both his brother and his father. He still wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and help revitalize underserved communities. He still wants his family to be complete again. “We know that what our family has gone through is not right, the length of my dad’s sentence has changed who we are forever. We continue to share his story and fight his case because we know this has to change.”

It’s time to end America’s incarceration crisis. Learn more about James’s story here: https://www.wv-webb-construct.com/

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“We continue to share his story and fight his case because we know this has to change.”
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Family Stories

LaTonya T.

“We did about 10 years in prison. I’m saying we, because families are affected.”
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LaTonya T., 53, has spent countless hours since her son’s arrest in 2001 driving back and forth to visit him in prison. “My son went to prison when he was 19 years old. When your 19-year-old son is fixing to go into this environment that you hear about, you see on TV, all kinds of thoughts just run through your mind. I went every visit. I never missed a prison visit. I traveled the road, whatever prison he was at, I was always there."

The physical and emotional cost of these visits added up over the years. “Showing your ID, having to pull your socks off, being searched. It was, in my mind, just really dehumanizing. And once you got in there, and you saw all of these young African American men, I’m looking around and my son is a part of this, it was heartbreaking and very devastating to me.”

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LaTonya decided early on in her son’s incarceration that she would learn all she could about the criminal justice system. “I changed my career and went back to school and got my degree in criminal justice. I became a parole officer. It really gave me the opportunity and the knowledge to learn the system from the inside out.” Now, LaTonya is a Soros Justice Fellow and advocates for criminal justice reform and, specifically, for probation and parole reform through her newly launched Alabama Justice Initiative.

According to the FWD.us report, Every Second: The Impact Of The Incarceration Crisis On America’s Families, nearly half of all adults living the United States have experienced incarceration in their family. One in eight has had a child incarcerated. LaTonya’s story is familiar to millions of others impacted by this crisis who are coping with the current or past incarceration of their children.

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“We did about 10 years in prison. I’m saying ‘we’, because families are affected. I mean, a person goes to prison, that’s an effect on everybody. Especially if you’re a parent, or a wife, or a mother. You’re doing time just like they are. Because you’re responsible. You have to put money on an account. You have to make sure they’re getting food boxes. Stamps to write letters. The travel that comes with this. The gas money you use going up and down the road to see your loved one. You are incarcerated.”

LaTonya supported her son through it all, and continues to stand with him him now that he’s out on parole. “I had to let the prison officials know that I’m not your average mom. You know him as a number, but I know him as TaDarrius. I’m not going to just let you just throw him away. I have a great son, but he made a bad choice. He’s remorseful for the things he’s done. He’s my only child. He knows that we’re here to support him.”

It’s time to end America’s incarceration crisis.

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“I had to let the prison officials know that I’m not your average mom. You know him as a number, but I know him as TaDarrius.”
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Family Stories

Carlton M.

“I was so happy, I just ran to him and jumped in his arms. I was just so happy he was home.”
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“I remember when I first saw my brother free. I remember my mom telling me when I was six years old or so that my brother was coming home. One morning I wake up and was getting ready for class. I got up and walked out of my mom’s room and into our living room area and my brother was on the couch. I was so happy, I just ran to him and jumped in his arms. I was just so happy he was home.”

For Carlton M., 29, these moments of joy with his oldest brother proved to be short-lived. Carlton grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a state with one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. He was six when his brother got out of prison. He was eight when the same brother went back. The incarceration crisis impacts a shocking amount of families, and Carlton’s is one of them. According to a new FWD.us report, nationally, one in four has had a sibling incarcerated. 113 million adults in America have had an immediate family member incarcerated, and 6.5 million — like Carlton — have an immediate family member currently behind bars.

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“My brother wasn’t able to attend the football games. He wasn’t able to attend the academic competitions I was in. He wasn’t there when I graduated from high school. He wasn’t there my first day of college. He wasn’t there when I got accepted into law school. He wasn’t there when I graduated from law school. He wasn’t there when I became an attorney in the state of Louisiana. It’s that impact that I shall never forget. But it’s also that impact that served as an impetus for me becoming a lawyer to advocate for the rights of individuals around this country, and to use my voice as an amplifier to the issues that impact millions of other families.”

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Families feel this absence every day. Over the years, Carlton watched his mother shoulder her son’s incarceration, and the physical, emotional and financial costs that come with it. “My mom had to step up. She would buy gifts for my nieces and nephews. She would drive up, she still drives up, long hours to visit my brother in prison. And just recently, this is the first time my mom said she’s tired. Because she’s getting up there in age, turning 70 this upcoming year, and having to drive those lonely roads to the prison, that takes a toll.”

It’s time to end America’s incarceration crisis.

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“This is the first time my mom said she’s tired. Because she’s getting up there in age, turning 70 this upcoming year, and having to drive those lonely roads to the prison, that takes a toll.”
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Every Second

1 in 2 adults in America has had a family member in jail or prison. This is an incarceration crisis.

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1 in 2 adults in America has had a family member in jail or prison.

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