This story is the second in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children.
By James Kilgore Truthout | Report February 28, 2017
Annette Taylor first lost her father to the prison system at age four. He was gone for four years, then came home for a few months, only to return to the Department of Corrections for another 16 years. “My dad was my everything,” Taylor told Truthout. Once her father was gone, Taylor remembers that her mother “just worked, worked, worked. She really wasn’t around.” Her mother worked two, sometimes three jobs — doing laundry in hotels and laboring in factories in Champaign County, Illinois, where their family lived. When still a preteen, Taylor had to take on the role of mothering her younger siblings — “get the dinner out that my mom made, make sure my little sister was doing her homework.” By the time she was fourteen, Taylor was pregnant. “I didn’t even tell my dad,” she recalls. She was terrified he would be disappointed. He only learned about the child a year later.
Being a parent ultimately meant a hiatus from school for Taylor until she was seventeen. By that time both her sister and brother were in trouble, she said. This trouble compounded when her sister gave birth to a child while incarcerated. Taylor ended up with the responsibility of taking care of her sister’s child as well as her own.
Looking back on those days, Taylor believes the absence of her father made a huge difference. If he had been around, she observed, “the household would have been more structured … I don’t think my brother and sister would have gotten into trouble.”
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