Arlington inmate La Tina Gary cried out of anticipation before her kids arrived for a special Mother’s Day visit.
Gary and 10 other mothers at the Arlington County Detention Facility got to see and hold their children in person Wednesday. Normally, inmates only see their friends and relatives through glass windows. No touching is allowed.
But for about two hours around Mother’s Day and Christmas, the jail allows incarcerated mothers to physically meet with their kids.
“Through the glass they see us,” said inmate Lolita Moore about her children. “But contact is very important.”
Inmate Deborah Adams agreed. With the Mother’s Day and Christmas visits, “There’s not the wall, the separation between us — it makes a difference.”
Inmate Jawana Burley does not allow her father to bring her kids to visit her during normal visiting periods. “I prefer they not see me like that.” So even though Burley has been in the jail since Feb. 10, she had not seen her kids until Wednesday.
Meeting with her 5-month-old Wednesday “made me have faith,” Burley said. Little Jajuan Burley recognized her mother. “I didn’t believe my son would know me when I got home (in September). But now I have faith.”
When Adams’ daughter visits her at the jail in normal circumstances the jail requires she have an adult accompany her. During the Mother’s Day and Christmas programs she does not have to be with another adult, Adams pointed out.
The kids are upset about their mothers’ incarceration. When Adams’ daughter Cordelia Cranshaw, 13, heard her mother had been sentenced to 10 years, “I just fell down in tears. I didn’t think she’d get all that time. My heart just dropped to my stomach.”
But kids’ visits to their mothers helps them. When 12-year-old Te Kia Gary visits her mother, she “lightens up” inside.
At the Mother’s Day event the jail serves the mothers and their children a meal and desert and encourages the kids to draw with their mothers. Christmas differs only in that local charitable groups donate gifts that the mothers give to their kids.
Outside of these events, inmates can get up to two visits a week for a maximum of 20 minutes each. Up to three people can visit an inmate at once. These visits can happen any day of the week. However, there is always the glass window between the visitors and the visited.
Right now the Mothers Day and Christmas program is just for women; there is no similar program for the male inmates. This is mainly because of logistical reasons, said Robbye Braxton-Mintz, the jail’s inmate services manager. At the jail there are about five times more male inmates than female inmates.
However, Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur hopes to introduce something similar for the men, Braxton-Mintz said.