Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash
We received permission to share a response to a woman’s question on Quora, after her 20-year old son received a 15 year prison sentence. “I don’t want him to feel depressed and give up. Is there anything I can do for him while he is in prison?”
Don Erving responded with the following, based on his own experience in a California prison:
I’ve been out a year after doing 22 years off a 15-to-Life sentence in the California Dept. of Corrections, and I will say to you that you have NO IDEA what your son will HAVE TO deal with in there, depression, though prevalent, being low on the list. There are no pretty words to alleviate your worries, Ma’am, because prison in America is in no way constructed to be a relief of any kind. Your son will face hardships and challenges and experience loneliness that is quite literally unspeakable, especially in such an environment. And he will either grow and gain knowledge and maturity, and physical as well as inner strengths, and be of so intimate an understanding of the harshnesses of Life that he chooses for himself a greater path than the one he’s known…..or not. What you can do for him, Mom, that would be a godsend through the hardships and conducive to his growth and gaining, is to accept them as the reality they are, and encourage him to be not just ‘strong,’ but to be steel. To be iron. Say to him how you have always known that you gave birth to a lion. A leader. Let him know that there is wisdom to be gained from every situation he may be confronted with, and to analyze EVERYTHING. Not with fear, but for what he can learn from it. You tell your son, Ma’am, that YOU are a warrior, and that YOUR blood is HIS blood, so in THAT way, you are always with him. However unlike you these words may be, it is TRULY the only way your hopes and wishes will have as deep down an impact as they must at this point in his life. Pretty words and cliches phrases of love and care, though meant with all your heart, PALE against the blinding light of a flashbang grenade exploding, guntower block-gun firing, smoke-filled, alarm blaring, prisoner rioting prison yard, Ma’am. It will do his courage and Will To Survive immeasurable good if he can draw from YOU a Warrior Mother’s strength and bravery and love, because, please understand, he resides now, and for a generation to come, in a place that can, does, and will become a battlefield, within the span of a second. And it takes a certain level of mental and physical strength to maintain such a constant awareness. To always be ‘on your toes.’ And you, Mom, must be the steel that sharpens that steel in him. I wish I could apologize to you for the picture I painted of your son’s life, Mom, but you can’t apologize for the truth, however harsh. It would mean to live a lie. And sugarcoated lies are not what you and your son need going forward. Be brave, Mom. As brave as you need him to be. BRAVER than you need him to be. The road is long and rougher than you can imagine, Mom. I pray the Lord’s Intervention, but minus that, I wish you, for your son, a Warrior Mother’s heart. This is the best thing you can do for him, Mom. The best thing to BE for him. May God bless you all.🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏
We’re glad you made it through, Don. Thank you for letting us share these uncompromising words of wisdom and experience with our readers.