Those who know me, have read my bio, or have read my books probably know that I have worked with girls and young women who have been incarcerated. All of the women and girls I met through this work taught me something about myself and the world, and though there were some who clearly should have been in jail, most would have been better served somewhere else (really anywhere else). It’s important to understand that the road to incarceration for a woman or girl is filled with grief, loss, and trauma. It is echoed in each of them, and while that doesn’t excuse their behavior, it does explain it.
Rather or not you agree with me on this point doesn’t really matter. What does matter is how are we, individually and society wide, helping those who are locked up find the healing they need to lead happy, healthy, productive lives upon their release. Because the vast majority of those incarcerated will someday be released. And so, then the question becomes how are jails, prisons, detention centers, and juvenile justice “programs” helping those they lock up to heal? If these men and women do not find healing (emotional and spiritual) it will be virtually impossible for them to add beauty to our world, and after all, isn’t that the goal? For each of us in our own individual ways to add beauty – and not pain.
Writing is one of the ways that I attempt to add beauty to the world, and it is because of this that I received one of the most meaningful emails of my life:
Hi Jacqueline, my name is Kathy and I just wanted to let you know that your books are making an impact on the young women at the Sedgwick county detention in Wichita Ks. I stumbled upon your books when looking for good catholic inspired books on amazon after Bud Macfarlane’s books were received so well. I started out sending your first two books and when this young inmate was finished she passed them on. Pretty soon they were asking when your third book would be out and would I watch for it and get it to them. I did! So far now I’ve sent three sets of the series and they still have not made it into any other pod because there is a waiting line to read them. Keep up your good work. You are reaching people that may not otherwise be reached. Thank you.
When I read this email, I thought back through my books and the light (pun intended) they shed on Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, healthy and unhealthy relationships, trauma, violence, and from the spiritual side -the knowledge that God does not abandon us ever. And I was overcome with gratitude to Kathy for giving just one of my books to one young woman who needed to hear those messages. I seriously cannot begin to express my gratitude to her, because while I can write the books, I can’t get them everywhere they need to be. This is a team effort, and I am so grateful to have Kathy, and each of you, on the team!
After receiving Kathy’s email, my husband and I have decided that my books will be free to anyone who is spending time in any sort of juvenile or criminal justice facility. All you have to do is ask, and I will send you or your loved ones my books. Thank you Kathy for your beautiful example! I have since sent another 5 sets of books (15 books) to the women of the Sedgewick County Jail. They received them earlier this week.
(The image above is a sculpture by Tim Schmalz, check him out he’s amazing!)