Vanessa’s 8 Year Sentence

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Thursday, October 30, 6:30pm UW

Children with incarcerated parents are five times more likely to end up in prison themselves. That’s the direction 16-year-old Vanessa Gutierrez might be headed. Her mother was arrested and imprisoned almost eight years ago for selling drugs, and Vanessa’s been adrift ever since. She was moved around to foster homes before finally landing at a group home. She began acting out at school, was twice arrested and put on probation. Growing up can be tough enough, but with an absent father and incarcerated mother the loneliness and anger can be too much.

The stigma that attaches to kids with incarcerated parents can be painful as well. One of Vanessa’s teachers saw that Vanessa was struggling with her grades. Instead of trying to help, she made a snide remark ‘You don’t want to end up like your mother, do you?’

Vanessa only has to make one small mistake to violate her probation and end up in juvenile hall, and begin her own time behind bars. But she’s trying to be the transition person in family. She’s hoping that when her mom comes home in June, things will get better. So long as she can stay out of trouble until then. (Brittany Washington, 6 min, USA)

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