We are grateful to have Lailany Viera, a rising senior at Villanova University, working at A.D.R.O.P. this summer. Interested in the criminal justice system, Lailany is focusing a significant amount of her time working for our restorative justice ministries. Here is a reflection from her recent visit to a Mary Mother of Captives Family Support meeting.
I do not currently have a loved one who is incarcerated. Although I have had some experiences with loved ones getting in trouble with the law or involved with illicit substances my passion for criminal justice reform is based more in my beliefs of the worth and dignity of all human life and in the teachings of mercy, forgiveness, and justice than on personal grievances with the system.
At the Mary Mother of Captives Meeting, for the loved ones of those who are incarcerated or struggling with addiction, I at first felt like an intruder into their safe space. This space was constructed on a mutual support system of those who have similar life experiences. There is no way I can begin to imagine or fully understand the pain in their hearts, but, nonetheless, they welcomed me and I learned so much from them. I was in awe of the strong men and women I encountered who had so much love to give and the strength to laugh despite the depths of pain, sorrow, and anger they must all be feeling. The issues they discussed were problems that had never really occurred to me before, things as simple as, “Will the prison let me send a birthday card to my son?” and as profound and complex as, “What do I do about extended family members rejecting and ignoring my son because he is locked up?”
My time spent with them hearing their stories opened my eyes to a whole new set of struggles. I realized that these loved ones of the incarcerated were some of the most forgotten casualties of the criminal justice system because their concerns and needs are hardly ever addressed - why the Mary Mother of Captives group was established back in 1996 in the first place. I will forever be grateful to them for sharing their experiences with me and I will not soon forget the impact of their love, kindness, and support of one another when the world is not exactly the most kind, loving, and supportive of them and their loved ones.