2019年12月20日 星期五

Race/Related: Family and Incarceration (Part 4)

A weeklong special holiday edition with The Marshall Project.
Ana Galvañ for The Marshall ProjectAna Galvañ for The Marshall Project

[The Marshall Project’s weekly “Life Inside” series features first-person essays from those who work or live in the criminal justice system. The following essay was written by Jenny Jimenez, a wife, mother and pastry chef living in the Chicago area whose husband is in prison. The Illinois Department of Corrections did not respond to multiple requests for comment.]

My husband, Jesse, has been back in prison since January. He was released last Christmas Eve, hours before we were married, but we didn’t get to do much together during the weeks he was out. He had an ankle monitor, and he couldn’t even use the upstairs bathroom without it going off because the parole agent hadn’t come by yet to give him movement. He couldn’t get back to work or begin his engineering classes. He would watch me out the window struggling with groceries and cleaning snow off the car and it began to wear on him.

On Jan. 4, he cut his ankle monitor off in a fit of rage.

Knowing how frustrating it is to sit in a cell, I try to send him something in the mail every day, whether it’s a letter or a printout or something I’ve made. There’s only one person in the mailroom for the prison, which has just over 2,000 people, so I’m determined to get ahead of the holiday rush.

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[Throughout this week, Race/Related is partnering with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsroom covering the United States’ criminal justice system, to present a special series on family and incarceration during the holidays. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter on Life Inside here.]

Jesse and I have already started our 12 Days of Christmas. I’ve been making gift tags for each of the 12 days and taking pictures of myself wearing them on different outfits. He makes me drawings of the partridge in the pear tree and other gifts from the song and sends them to me. He’s a really talented artist. I laminate those and use them to decorate the garland in my living room.

Sometimes the prison challenges our holiday cheer. For instance, Jesse spent weeks decorating a T-shirt he bought from the commissary, with little turtledoves and hearts. He was making a Christmas pajama shirt for me. But they confiscated it because they said he was using it to send me “a message.”

I sent him a picture of my Christmas tree, but it was sent back. They said it was gang-related because of the five-pointed star at the top. “No stars,” they said. So I’ve been getting really creative. I learned to use this Silhouette machine to make these cutout Christmas trees that I send him, one at a time. Once he gets them all, they’ll go together and make a 3-D tree.

I also sent him little pictures of all the ornaments on my tree so he can tape them to his 3-D version. He uses nail clippers to cut around the edges and make little round ornaments. They have these little circular indentations around them because of the shape of the nail clippers; he’s not allowed to have scissors.

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My latest project is a Shutterfly book for the 12 Days of Christmas that when you flip through it, it moves. I put a puzzle filter over a photo of me where he can see my cleavage and the new “Mrs. Jimenez” tattoo I got on my chest. I sent it on nine different days so he could put the puzzle together and get a little surprise.

Tell your friends.

Race/Related is a newsletter focused on race, identity and culture. It’s published weekly on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. and edited by Lauretta Charlton. Invite someone to subscribe to the Race/Related newsletter. Or email your thoughts and suggestions to racerelated@nytimes.com.

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