Losing Your Brothers to Prison

This week I wrote a six-part series that explored the myriad effects on the siblings of young people who serve time in prison:

The reporting was heartrending, as several conversations were accented by tears and long silences as siblings recalled their pain and loss. The reporting also had some dead-ends, as we have scant information about the lifelong impact on the so-called “non-offending sibling”—the little brother or big sister at home whose world changes irreversibly. As we prepared the series for publication, we realized that part of that void could be filled by our readers with similar experiences, so we sent out a call for personal stories. We received many, and are so thankful for each of them. We will share some of the stories, anonymously, in an ongoing series—starting with the following note, which a reader sent last night:

As I’m lying here unable to sleep as I think about my incarcerated brothers, I happened to stumble across your series on the subject and I thought I should send my own story.

Today, I had to make a difficult choice. My youngest brother (I’ll call him Chris) is currently making local headlines because he is the star witness in a trial against his alleged partner-in-crime in a tragic murder case. As I was driving this morning with tears in my eyes, I chose to drive to work instead of the courthouse.

Chris committed first-degree murder at the age of 16. This happened just a day after one of our two other brothers had been arrested on unrelated charges that brought him a couple-of-decades-long sentence.

I was always rather protective of my three younger brothers growing up. Together, we experienced abuse and trauma as a result of our parents’ actions. We were made to believe that we were utterly worthless. My mother struggled with suicide attempts and ideation for a long time. My brothers struggled with untreated mental illness. They each began by acting out in school, suspensions, self-medication with illegal drugs, minor crimes, expulsions, suicide attempts, further trauma, and felonies.