Speaking of Women's Rights: The Girl in the Mirror

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Girl in the Mirror

by Lillian Hewko

Drawings and Poems by  Carine Perry and Tammara Perry

As an Equal Justice Works Attorney at Legal Voice, I provide know your rights information several times a month for women at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) who are facing separation from their children due to incarceration. For the past 8 months I have had the opportunity to witness as Chandra Perry and her daughters fight to keep their family whole in the face of barriers created by our criminal justice system and our child welfare system. I was given permission by Carine Perry, Chandra’s oldest daughter, to share two poems and a sketch that express how her mother’s incarceration and subsequent separation impact her life. On March 23rd, 2013, I was a part of a youth outreach day at the prison, where Chandra’s 11 year old daughter drew the sketch with a note (center drawing) and asked me to share it with our supporters.

I look in the mirror
And see a girl
Who is staring back
At me. I don’t know
Who she is
Because she is
The girl
I want to be.

She puts a smile on,
While inside     she’s falling      apart.

She says she’s “ok” as pain fills her heart.
She pretends not to care. 
Everyone slowly walks away. 
She hides
Behind her mask,
And pretends
To be okay.

She is scared
To open           up,
And call someone
Her best friend.

They all turn out the same,
And never really care in the end.

They all turn out the same,
And never really care in the end.

She is scared
To let people come close.

It always ends up as heartache.

She decides to trust someone,
But it always ends up
As a big mistake.

She feels like a stranger in her own home. 
Like she doesn’t even belong.
She tries the best she can
But it always seems to be wrong.

She freezes up at the word.
She freezes up at the word— love

People throw it around too much.

Her muscles constrict,
As she is afraid to be touched.

She has ideas for the future, hopes and dreams for her own.
But she doesn’t hold her breath,
Because disappointments are all she has ever known.

She asks “Why am I never good enough?”
“Why am I always second choice?”

People tell her she’s got to stand up for what she wants,
She’s got to stand up for what she wants,
She’s got to find her own voice.

Voice: I know who I want to be.
It’s all so much clearer.
But the fact of life is
I’m only a girl in the mirror.


Dear Mom,

Now, Mom this is only a poem. Don’t think anything bad from it, ok? I love you with all my heart and I know the answers to ALL these questions, but I was just making a poem out of them, ok? I love you so much. We only have 129 days left to go and I am 100% sure we can make it:

Mom, why did you have to leave?
Why did you go so far away?
Why did you have to go somewhere we couldn’t?
How come you haven’t come home?
When will things be normal again?
Will they ever?
I miss you.
Why are so many people hurt?
Who’s fault is this?
Was I doing something wrong?
I miss you!

From the voices of youth, we find that although their parents may be less than perfect, the love that they have for their parents is as real and strong as any other child’s. The loss experienced by these children when their relationships are severed is real. This loss is one that we should be concerned about since there is significant evidence that maintaining contact with one’s incarcerated parent improves a child’s emotional response to their parent’s incarceration and supports parent-child attachment as well as lowers the likelihood of recidivism among incarcerated parents.  HB 1284 will give Incarcerated parents who are separated from their children a fair chance to work toward reunification and safe permanency options that do not involve severing familial ties forever. More info here.

How can you help?  
SHB 1284 (Children of Incarcerated Parents bill) passed out of the Senate Human Services and Corrections committee and has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means committee. Help us get the bill out of Ways and Means by the April 9th deadline.

If your Senator is on the Ways and Means Committee (click here for list), please contact your Senator by phone or by email and ask them to support SHB 1284.

If your Senator is a Republican (click here to find out who your Senator is), but not on the Ways and Means Committee, ask your Senator to urge Senate budget writer Sen. Andy Hill to move SHB 1284 out of committee.

If your Senator is a Democrat who is not on the Ways and Means Committee, please ask your senator to urge Senator Hargrove to support moving SHB 1284 out of committee.

Carina Perrty, 14, and Tammara Perry 11 are the daughters of Chandra Perry who is serving her time at Washington Corrections Center for Women.  Carina and Tammara live in separate foster homes and are avid poets and artists and send their mom their creations on a regular basis. They hope to be able to overcome the child welfare system and live together as a family.