"My debt. Not only is it affecting me financially, mentally, emotionally, because I just want to get a house, I want to live like normal people. It affects my mom, it affects my dad, And it affects my boys because they don’t get as much as they should be able to get. They suffer, too. For everything I have done in the past, they suffer for now. My past is haunting me."
Keshena is a mother to two teenage boys -- the older son is on his way to prison. Her husband is also serving time as is her step-father. Due to several convictions for forgery, which included 4.5 years in prison, Keshena owes approximately $50,000 in legal financial obligations (LFO) across five counties.
Besides her own LFO debt, Keshena also pays towards her husband's LFOs while he's in prison. She needs to give him money so he can buy toiletries and food but if she sends him $100, the Department of Corrections will take 75% of that amount to apply towards his debt, leaving her husband with only $22.50 to pay for his necessities. So she can only give him $10 at a time. More than that at any one time and the DOC will take 75%. Her husband needs the money to buy soap, deodorant, razors, toothpaste and a toothbrush.
Keshena will soon start paying towards her incarcerated son's LFO debt as well as his personal hygiene products.
In Keshena's Own Words . . .
On Loved Ones in Prison . . .
"It’s horrible. It’s lonely for me. I miss my husband. I really want him to come home. But to have my husband in prison and my son is on his way to prison and then my step-dad has been in prison. . . . No family structure. I don’t know what it is truly like to live in a house with a man for a year. Once I get through a year, I’ll tell you what it’s like.
My debt affects my giving him money. But not only does my debt affect him, his debt affects us, too. Because he has debt, and because he owes LFOs, they take 75% of his money. They take 75% of anything. If I sent him $100, he will get $22.50. And so instead of me sending him a large amount of money, I have to send him $10. He will get the whole ten dollars. But what can you do with ten dollars? I send it through J-Pay. Every Sunday I send $10."
On Helping Children of incarcerated parents . . .
"We’re in the process of opening a non-profit organization. It’s about at-risk teens that their parents are incarcerated or have been incarcerated. Whatever it is you need help with, we’re here to help you. When it comes to tutoring, schooling, when it comes to counseling, when it comes to anything. They don’t have anything out here for the kids. To fall back on. Seattle has all these community centers. And they have a lot of programs. This is why the kids in [this] County revolve their self around gangs. Because what do you have to deter the gangs away from the kids and the kids away from the gangs? Nothing."