I had an outstanding 41st this week. A week of productivity with our summer routine somewhat back on track, Ava’s first concert, an ag conference on a beautiful campus in St. Louis, and a lot of reminders of how many awesome friends, family and “communities” I have. [Note, the first sign of being 41 and not 21 and feeling like it was outstanding is the list of things I claim to have done that made it great!]

One of the biggest blessings of this day and age we live in is hearing from people through technology – emails, texts and social media.

A year or two into my mom’s incarceration, the federal Bureau of Prisons allowed those in their warehouses to have access to email. It was clunky and somewhat hard to sign up but it was a game changer. I could finally actually “hear” from my mom again every day. I grew up talking to my mom every day. Some days (many days) multiple times a day. Call it crazy or cute, it was our normal and email allowed us to get closer to that normal again.

Every month my step-dad put money on my mom’s “books” for things like toiletries, snacks and phone calls. You could only have a certain amount of money on your books at any given time and phone calls cost somewhere between $0.25 and $0.30 per MINUTE. You are capped at 300 minutes per month. That may sound like a long time in these days of fewer phone calls and more text messages. But I assure you when you are fighting a legal case and your daughter is pregnant with her first child, it is not. But we were “lucky”. 300 minutes are a pipe dream for people who do not have anyone on the outside to put money on their books. Most jobs for federal inmates pay less than $0.10 per HOUR. Do the math.

The “system” claims to value family connections and staying in touch with loved ones as it makes re-entry tend to be a more successful experience. Yet they make it damn near impossible for so many. With few federal facilities across the country, visits are often impossible. We met many people who saw their children once a year if they were lucky.

Technology, especially email, can keep people connected to the people they love. And while I am the first to admit that social media has gotten me down on more days than one, I will say that overall it’s been a positive thing in my life to be able to keep in touch with the people I care about through technology. I hear that today they even allow video conferencing at some facilities – that must be a game changer as well. Especially for small children.

This week I was thankful I didn’t have to hear any beeps (that alerted you that your allotted time was up) when I talked to my mom as she wished me happy birthday. I was grateful to hear from so many people through so many mediums to wish me a wonderful day. These are the things you maybe haven’t thought about if you’ve never had a loved one on the inside. For me, it’s another bit of toothpaste I can’t put back in the tube.

With Gratitude and Hope for the Future,

stephaniesig

Founder, Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Mom – CEO – Justice Warrior

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