Ending up in prison, locked up behind bars is having an adverse impact on the financial stability of society as a whole; but it is women who are suffering the most.
It took ten years for Carla Gonzalez’s parents to rein in the debt they found themselves in after her brother was sentenced to prison for bringing undocumented immigrants across the border.
“Emotionally, it has taxed our family a lot. My mother in particular went through a huge depression and lost about 60 pounds the first three months of him being in jail,” Gonzalez said.
Their family is one of millions that are being punished by a system that also affects the loved ones of those behind bars. According to one study by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, in California, Forward Together, and other civil rights organizations, there are over 2.4 million families that have found themselves in similarly dire situations.
Gonzalez, 32, who also took part in the study said, “My family knew that if we let him have a public defender he would probably never come out of jail. So we had to hire a private layer with an estimate of $150,000. Obviously that’s not something that somebody has in their back pocket, so my parents went into serious debt.”
The money was obtained by refinancing their family home, working multiple jobs and even cutting back on food – just because the family didn’t want her brother to spend the remainder of his life behind bars.
The study looks at how over 300 families are impacted by a loved one’s incarceration by way of court fees, visitation expenses and basic necessities like food all adding up quickly to bury them in mountains of debt.
The most affected are women – at 83% – as they are the ones that mainly take on the debts, and half of them are women of color.
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18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
1 Corinthians 11:9
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.