By Julia Werth
When Suzi Jensen went to see her mom in prison at the age of 12 she was only allowed to hug her twice, once at the beginning of the visit and once at the end.
“They just had tables and you had to sit across the table from her,” said Jensen, now in her 30s. “At that age, being a 12-year-old girl, there were a lot of things happening, big changes and not being able to sit and cry and talk to her was terrible.”
Jensen’s mother’s first prison sentence—four years, on grand larceny charges—was followed by subsequent arrests, leaving Jensen and her two younger sisters to largely grow up without their mom, and a secret they didn’t share with the outside world for years.
“All my friends thought my mom had moved to Pennsylvania,” Jensen said. “I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about it and my grades started dropping. I was on the junior national honor society and I got kicked off. There was no outlet. I had no idea what to do with these feelings.”
Jensen is not alone.
One in 14 children nationally have experienced the incarceration of a parent, according to Child Trends. In June 2016, there were 8,248 incarcerated adults in Connecticut who reported being caregivers to a total of 18,034 dependents, according to the Department of Correction.