Thursday, December 24, 2009

Two Hours With Mom

"The smartest investment we can make is in our children. I see firsthand the promise of breaking the cycle of incarceration. We need to help stop is from becoming the next of prisoners-"
Matthew J. Frank, secretary of State Department Corrections

Monthly Visits help Mothers in prison Stay Connected with Children
By Gina Barton

One by one, the women trickle into the gym, their faces breaking into joyful grins as they see their waiting children.
Kayonnie Ezell, 11, skips over to meet her mom. After a tight hug, the two walk hand to hand to a quiet corner so Nicole Ezell can fix her daughter's hair.

Throughout the two-hour visit on a chilly Saturday morning Ezell and Kayonnie talk constantly. If they ‘re not holding hands, they’re walking with their arms around each other’s waists. Among the children who make these monthly visits to Taycheedah Correctional Institution with a group from Rose Youth and Family Center in Milwaukee, Kayonnie is the veteran. She rarely has missed a bus ride to Fond du Lac since the program started in:2000.
Since the program began, St Rose has sponsored has sponsored more than 2,000 visits serving 350 children and 150 families.

Ezell, 32, sees a bit of herself in her daughter. Me and My sisters were (close) like that with my mother, “ she says.

Ezell’s mother was incarcerated for more than two years when Ezell was a teenager. Today, both are serving time at Taychedah for cocaine dealing.

Doesn’t See Breana Often
The service ST Rose provides is seen as invaluable because lack if cooperation from caregivers is one of barrier inmates face in trying to maintain bonds with their children.

Ezell hasn’t seen one of her three daughters in eight months and feel fortunate to be able to maintain contact with her other two children. Besides Kayonnie, Ezell is the mother of Breana, 13, And Aureonanna, 7.

Two years ago, Ezell’s ex boyfriend tried to get custody of the older two. Ezell asked for a DNA test, which revealed that Kayonnie wasn’t his daughter.

While the information has been difficult of Kayonnie to accept, it was the only way for Ezell to make sure she would not lose rights to the girl. Kayonnie, who now stays with Ezell’s cousin, almost never misses a monthly visit.

Less that two hours after the arrival at Taychedah, it’s time for mothers and children to go their separate ways. A guard turns out the lights in the gym. A 7-year old girl sobs, clinging to her mother’s leg.
“Get a great kiss and a hug, “ ST Rose volunteer Ana Ocon tells the girl. “Remember how she smells and how she feels and hold that for another month and come back again.”
Kanonnie, who knows all about her mother’s legal situation, says a calm goodbye. “I love you Mom, she tells Ezell.” And work on your case!”

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