This reader was hesitant to share her story and wasn’t sure if we even wanted to hear it:
I thought I would write in case you’re interested in sharing the perspective of an upper-middle-class white family going through this. So many of the challenges in terms of psychological impact and family dynamics are universal, but there is sort of the additional burden of shame, embarrassment, and a lack of people to talk to when incarceration rates are really low in my community. I know virtually no one who can relate. I’m not sure where to start, or if you’re even interested, but I’d be willing to talk with you provided anything written would be anonymous; I don’t want my family’s name made public. It would make me feel good to share our story if it might make others in this situation feel not so alone.
The reader follows up with a detailed story about her sister’s perpetual problems with drug addiction:
The image of a pretty blond Piper Chapman in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs catapulted Orange is the New Black to fame. I’d be willing to venture that the average American was intrigued by the story’s premise. After all, prison is no place for a nice, upper-middle-class girl, but that is precisely the reality my family deals with every day. I wish I could say my younger sister’s reasons for getting locked up were as glamorous as Piper’s—unwittingly involved in international drug trafficking while jet-setting the globe with her beautiful girlfriend—but our story is much sadder and much less interesting.
My sister was incarcerated for breaking into a car and stealing prescription drugs. How on earth she happened to know there were prescription drugs in this particular car, I do not know, nor have I ever bothered to ask her. She has always been elusive on details regarding such things, so I’m not sure I would believe her story anyway.
She spent over two years in prison—a heavy sentence for her crime, but this was mainly due to a parole officer and judge who recognized the extent of her substance abuse problem and realized prison was the safest place for her. While most people would worry incessantly if a family member was thrown into prison, my family couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. At least she was somewhere safe and for two plus years.