Sons In Prison at 16 Years Old
“We got a call in the middle of the night from the sheriff that they were arresting him for being under the influence of drugs. We went to where they were arresting him to talk to the police officers and then they took him to jail.”
(Minor edits for readability)
PTHS: I’m here today with Marie who has had two sons that were incarcerated. She’s going to tell us a little bit about the history of her sons, how they got to where they’re at, what it was like when they came home and also recidivism where they went back to prison, broke parole and where they are today. Marie, thank you so much for being here today.
Marie: Thank you.
PTHS: People don’t realize that when you have somebody that’s incarcerated, that it’s a journey for the family and for you. And you struggled a lot and now you’ve had to learn so much to get where you are right now and to get your strength and also to set boundaries. Let’s talk about your oldest son and where he is today and how he got there.
Marie: Well, he started using drugs when he was around 16. He’s been in and out of jail and prison. And he gets out and he does good for a while and then he goes back to using drugs, and then he lands back in prison. The last time he went back, he went back on drugs and he was stealing out of machines and he got two years, a year and a half.
PTHS: It must be pretty tough. He was 16 when he first went in, so he started using and he got arrested doing something that a 16-year-old not thinking would do and plus being on drugs would make it worse. Could you tell a bit about how you found out?
Marie: We got a call in the middle of the night from the sheriff that they were arresting him for being under the influence of drugs. We went to where they were arresting him to talk to the police officers and then they took him to jail. We had to get an attorney. It costs us a lot of money, big money. I think he spent probably six months in jail before it actually went to trial. The financial burden is heavy. We visited him. He was sentenced and then I think he was placed on probation and house arrest after that because he was a juvenile.
He was back home and he was doing well. And then he did good for, I don’t know, a year and a half, two years and then that brought him to about age 18 and then he started up again. He went back to jail and he was found guilty. Then he went to prison for the first time.
PTHS: Did you visit him?
Marie: I did in the beginning, yes.
PTHS: And then how long was he in that time?
Marie: Two years.
PTHS: And then how long was he out? Do you remember?
Marie: He was out quite a while before he went back. I think he was early 20s.
PTHS: Was it like he got back with the wrong crowd?
Marie: Back with the wrong crowd and just start doing the same thing he was doing before.
PTHS: And then he was incarcerated the second time he was incarcerated as an adult?
Marie: Second time as an adult, two more years. And then that was just two years ago. He was out. He was doing well, and probably within two years, he went back. Now, he’s on his third prison sentence and he got two more years. He’ll be out March of next year.
PTHS: Do you think it’s going to be any different this time? Is he going to come back home or go into a program?
Marie: No, he’s not coming back home. He’s going to go to like a halfway house.
PTHS: But you’ve had to set some boundaries then because he’s been in and out. He’s doing drugs every time he comes out, and he just can’t come back home because it can affect you. How has it affected you?
Marie: Yes, affected me a lot. It made me just go crazy. I get really angry and bitter and I just don’t want to deal with it no more.
PTHS: And is there anything that you’ve done that has helped you to cope with it?
Marie: I just have my friends and I do my own thing. I go to the beach. I talk to people, take a walk on the beach, ride my bike, just de-stress, try not to think about it.
PTHS: And I think setting boundaries. I know you told me that you set some boundaries too, when he comes out this time.
Marie: Setting the boundaries helps a lot but you have to stick to it. If you don’t stick to it and follow through, you’re going to enable them.
PTHS: Well, it’s really up to him. He’s got to make the decision to help himself and that’s something you told me. You can’t make them change. They need to make the choice.
“Just be strong. You can do it.”
PTHS: And then you have a younger son too.
Marie: Again, started when he was about 16. I don’t know. It must be a bad number, bad age.
PTHS: What is it about 16 as kids?
Marie: Bad choices.
PTHS: And I just wanted to, before you go on, say that they had a good upbringing. I think, it’s just bad choices.
Marie: Started when he was around 16, just hanging with the wrong kids doing the wrong thing. Age 17, he went to jail. Got back out. By 18, he was wearing an ankle bracelet and then he went off to prison when he had his trial. Spent four years incarcerated at a juvenile camp.
PTHS: Was he 16 or 17?
Marie: I think he was turning 17, so almost 17.
PTHS: It was a crime with some other people?
Marie: Yeah. There was four other people involved.
PTHS: So, just being at the wrong place at the wrong time which could happen to anybody.
Marie: Yes. He was in the car with the people.
PTHS: And there were some people that committed a crime. He was in the car. One of the guys decided to make a plea bargain with law enforcement.
Marie: And decided to snitch pretty much. My son wasn’t a juvenile, but he was sentenced the youthful offender status. The most they can sentence you is six years, but by the time he went to trial, he was 18 but they still sentenced him a youthful offender. He spent four years incarcerated in prison followed by two years community supervision which is house arrest.
PTHS: And when is this house arrest up?
Marie: Well, we need to backup because he decided to violate two weeks ago, so he’s sitting in jail right now. And then in a couple of days, that will be up. He’ll go to court and they’re probably going to release him because his six years will be up. He’s in county jail right now.
PTHS: When he goes before the judge, they’re going to say he served his six years?
PTHS: What are you doing differently this time? Because I know you’ve had a lot of struggle.
Marie: Yes. Well, I’m not letting them come back home to live with me. Setting boundaries, he’s going to go either to a rehab or a halfway house.
PTHS: Marie, we were talking about some of the changes that you had to make in your life when your sons came back in between when they were coming home from being incarcerated. And could you tell us some of the changes that you made and then also some of the levels of emotion that you felt?
Marie: Well, I set my boundaries. No alcohol in the house. No one was allowed to drink. I made sure that there was no alcohol in the house, and they weren’t happy but those are my rules.
PTHS: Was that part of their probation too?
Marie: Yes, had to stick by it because if the probation officer came by, it would be a violation. I did that and I made sure I enforced it.
And when you start off, the emotions are, first, you’re very scared. You’re sad, and as time goes on, you get angry. And then it just seems the farther you go on with it, you just … It’s not my problem. You need to figure it out.
PTHS: And that’s where you’re setting your boundaries and that’s a lot of things we spoke about.
Marie: Yes, absolutely.
PTHS: Because you were saying that you didn’t do this.
Marie: I didn’t do it and it’s not my problem.
PTHS: However, I do want to put out there that I know you still love your sons.
Marie: Oh, absolutely, I do.
PTHS: And we spoke about this: tough love.
Marie: Tough love. It’s very hard to do but you have to do it.
PTHS: Any last words then for somebody that’s out there that’s going through what you’ve had to go through these past years?
Marie: Just be strong. You can do it.