In October of last year Cindy Settle, 38, returned to her invalid mother's home in Kenbridge, Virginia, after having served a 33 month sentence for a felony charge. She is the younger sister of a model state prison inmate with whom I correspond.
From the start Cindy began searching in earnest for steady work, taking whatever odd jobs she could find, cleaning and repainting the inside of her mother's house and working at getting custody back of her four children.
Meanwhile her two older sons, age 16 and 18, were apprehended on petty larceny charges, which resulted in a sheriff coming to her mother's home to search for stolen items. While they found none, they did discover a bottle of liquor Cindy had hidden in the garage and which her sons had gotten into while their mother was away.
Cindy, realizing the seriousness of her bad judgment and faced with the possibility of having to return to prison for contributing to the delinquency of a minor (a probation violation) agreed to a plea that included her having to leave the area and not setting foot in Lunenburg County again, in spite of her widowed mother's desperate need for her help.
Needless to say, both she and her mother were devastated by this outcome, but Cindy, unable to afford expensive legal fees, felt she had no other choice but to take the plea as a way of avoiding having to do more prison time.
The good news is that Cindy recently found a $8.50 an hour job as a cook at a restaurant in Blackstone in nearby Nottoway County. The bad news is that the only housing she could find and afford for herself and her three youngest children still at home, ages 16, 12 and 6, was in a mobile home park in Mecklenburg County, a 45-minute drive from her job. Meanwhile she is looking for housing closer to her work.
Had she been able to stay at her mother's place she could have had affordable place to live, been able to offer her mother some much needed care and support, and her mother, in turn, could have provided some help and supervision with the children while Cindy was at work.
Just another example of how the criminal justice system often harms and divides families rather than helping them remain as intact and functional as possible.
6/29/15 update: In a court hearing Tuesday, 6/23, a judge gave Cindy permission to drive through Lunenburg County to her work, in spite of the Commonwealth's Attorney's objections.