Today is October 16 and it’s been several months since we’ve blogged.

We initially thought blogging would provide an additional means of communication for those affected by incarceration, but that hasn’t been the case.  Social media is so popular now, with Facebook being at the top of that list.  So, many opt to use social media for privately messaging their concerns and crises.  So, we’ve decided to hold the Blog page for special issues we’d like to write about; keep it available for those who are just interested in who we are; how we think; what we do, but we won’t be posting regularly on this blog.

You can find us on Facebook…we have a Twitter account; even Instagram and Pinturest, but we’d rather communicate “blog-like” on Facebook.  Our most active accounts are the conference page,  and the Advocacy in Action Coalition page–it’s the national End Mass Incarceration page.  “Like” them both.  Message us.  We will respond.

Of course you can always call us at 915-861-7733….if we can’t answer immediately (maybe we’re trying to help someone else; maybe we’re on a conference call preparing new advocacy material; maybe in a meeting or even sleeping!), PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE.  We really want to talk to you, but of course we won’t even know you are trying to reach us if you don’t leave a message!  And, if you’re too shy to call, e-mail us.  We check the conference e-mail most frequently – [email protected].  We try to review our e-mail accounts at least twice a day!  So we will get back to you pretty quickly.

And, occasionally check out this Blog page…add your comments…we occasionally write on topics of serious concerns to prison families, we’d love to have your feedback.


By the way, we have our first major on-line fundraiser coming up in November.  We sure hope you will join our team and help us win at least a small share of the Newman’s Own Holiday Challenge.

Whatever OUR TEAM RAISES we get to keep…and it may put us in the running for some of their big prizes.  And really, no donation is too small; together all donations add up to become a huge help.


Thanks of thinking about us.


Yesterday was exciting, as we sent out the announcement that the conference is coordinating the 1st-ever Annual National Prisoner FAMILY Month for May 2018.  With each passing minute it has become clearer that this event is far past due! 


All of which makes planning the 2018 10th anniversary conference all the more exciting, despite the fact the date is almost 16 months off!  So we are planning a series of pre conference activities…many focused on advocacy, and we believe we’ve hit a high note with advocacy, because we we’ve finally learned something we should have known and responded to decades ago and it should make advocacy far more productive!


All of these years – FOR DECADES! —  we have been asking, even demanding change; improvement; humane treatment for an entire population that the community at large cares nothing about.  If they don’t care, they’re certainly not going to worry about making improvements!  We are now referring to that lack of caring as the EMPATHY GAP. 




If we don’t find a connection, we don’t care about that person, and we are hardly going to move mountains for a person we don’t care about – right?




So, before we can even expect change, let alone demand it, we must first find ways to make people care. 


Thus, our focus now has turned to CLOSING THE EMPATHY GAP. 



We are finding ways to give our communities a reason to connect with the entire prison family – We are sharing our stories and by doing so we are showing others we have a lot in common; we are just like them!  We are brothers and sisters; We are parents.  We are sons and daughters. – We are school teachers or mechanics or business owners or employees. 



We face daily challenges just like everyone else; we must repair flat tires and replace frozen water pipes; we rush children to the doctor when they have a high fever; we struggle to save money as prices soar; we muster energy to make dinner and play with the children after a long day’s work; we enjoy an occasional movie or a rare day at the beach with family and friends…and the list of our commonalities goes on and on, but the community doesn’t know it! 



The community must know that we have many commonalities before they will care about someone affected by incarceration.  Before they will care we must close the EMPATHY GAP.  We can do that in part with our newly released Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary.  The 32 minute film puts a face on real people directly affected by mass incarceration; the film humanizes real members of prison families; it gives community members reasons to connect with prison family members and bursts erroneous but frightening myths and stereotypes that blind the community to our commonalities.


Additionally, it was just announced in our July newsletter that the conference steering committee is now coordinating the 1stb Annual National Prisoner FAMILY Month scheduled for the full month of May 2018. 



We are asking individuals, groups and organizations with concerns for the affects of mass incarceration to plan various events for their communities – viewing documentaries such as ours; inviting speakers; holding prisoner art displays and book signings, even featuring fun events such as family picnics, walks or runs…activities that will humanize, but also will shed light on the serious consequences of mass incarceration on families and communities throughout the country.  You will be hearing a great deal more about National Prisoner Family Month.


We are holding several competitions between now and the next conference, and one of those is a writing competition that we welcome prisoners and their family members to participate in.  We will also be holding a competition for a new logo for the conference. Keep watching for more information in our newsletters and posts on our Facebook pages.



Our focus remains on creating self-advocates.  The Advocacy in Action Coalition continues to develop resources for use in advocating; this year we will be developing several one pagers – handouts addressing serious concerns with medical and mental health care of prisoners, as well as humane treatment of the entire prison family.  So we are on a roll and believe once we humanize the prison family for the larger community to close the EMPTHY GAP – it will take a great deal of work – but when we do it, our road to achieving those things we’ve long been advocating for will be much easier.


Why is criminal justice reform so elusive, despite decades of angry and pain filled outcries?

 It’s because we’ve been crying out all wrong!


We’ve been attempting to get an uncaring public to care about an entire population they loathe and fear – prisoners – without giving them anything to care about.


Sometimes we fail to see the big picture, and when that happens we fail at the entire project. We’ve failed in our effort to see real criminal justice reform because we failed to see the EMPATHY GAP standing in our way.


When we failed to see the EMPATHY GAP, we did nothing to close that gap and therefore, our outcries fell on deaf ears.


Here’s how the EMPATHY GAP stands in our way:


Empathy is the glue that binds people together. Empathy connects people to one another. Empathy lets us care about each other.


Without empathy there is no connection between people.  If there is no connection, people don’t care.


The fact is, unless they have been personally affected by mass incarceration, the general public cares nothing about prisoners they don’t believe they have anything in common with. Therefore, the general public hardly gives a thought to the fact that prisoners actually have families and friends.  So they don’t care about prison family members either. 


The general public sees no connection between themselves and the incarcerated. Therefore, the general public has absolutely no empathy for anyone personally affected by mass incarceration. That results in an EMPATHY GAP that actually prevents the public from caring about criminal justice involved people.


Thank you to Kate Boccia and the National  Incarceration Association  for naming it!  Simply put, it is the “Empathy Gap.”  It is exactly the reason criminal justice reform efforts rarely or barely result in change, despite all the outcries.  PEOPLE JUST DON’T CARE.  People have no empathy for prisoners or their loved ones because they don’t find a connection.


Before we can expect the public; our legislators; criminal justice officials to respond to our outcries for equitable treatment; for humane treatment we absolutely must close the EMPATHY GAP.      That is the only way people will come to care enough to understand why reforms are necessary. Closing the EMPATHY GAP is the only way to achieve the reforms we’ve been futilely attempting to achieve for decades.


It’s actually called, “insanity.”


Trying to do something the same way over and over and over again and expecting different results is INSANITY. We must stop the insanity and do things differently to achieve a different—a desired response. In this case we must stop butting our heads against a brick walled EMPATHY GAP and start closing that gap if we ever expect to see the reforms we desperately seek.


Finally we’re making progress.  Now we’re calling it by its name: “The Empathy Gap.”


Now we are doing something about it that can make a real difference.  We’re working to close the Empathy Gap by pointing out similarities; pointing out connections between us so people will care; so people will respond when they hear our outcries.


“If we really want change, this is what we should have addressed first!” says InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference Founder and Chair, Carolyn Esparza. 


“We’ve been spinning our wheels!  Nothing will ever change unless people care about the issue, and clearly people haven’t cared about anything related to criminal justice.  We must give them a reason to care.  We must give them a reason to connect.  Now we have a way to do that!”


How do you get people to care about a population it not only doesn’t care about, but has come to fear?


“You put a face on it!” says Esparza.


Indeed, that is exactly what the annual Prisoner’s Family Conference has done with its “Faces of Mass Incarceration” documentary.  It has given mass incarceration a FACE to connect with; a FACE to care about.


The powerful yet sensitive documentary reduces the “Empathy Gap” by introducing the community to real members of the prison family.   Each one belies the erroneous stereotypes and myths that have plagued the prison family for decades. Each face tells of a connection with the general public—i.e. I am a school teacher; I am a father; I am a mother; I am a child being bullied at school; I am just like you—we really do have connections.


By reducing the EMPATY GAP, the documentary humanizes the entire prison family. By reducing the EMPATHY GAP, the documentary gives the general public a connection with prison families; a reason to care. 


Showing the documentary everywhere criminal justice and prison reform issues are discussed further reduces the EMPATHY GAP, providing more and more members of the community a connection; a reason to care.


Whether shown in classrooms, boardrooms or churches — wherever mass incarceration issues can be discussed, the film compels meaningful discussion that reduces the EMPATHY GAP and makes room for many of the reforms we seek. 


Order your download of the documentary along with the facilitator’s guide. Reduce the EMPATHY GAP by putting a face on mass incarceration.




They may be familiar with the saying, but that never stops them from doing the same thing over again the same way anyhow, and GUESS WHAT? They get frustrated and angry when they get the same results!


LET’S STOP THE INSANITY RIGHT NOW, especially the insanity pertaining to advocacy for criminal justice reform.


For decades we’ve cajoled, begged, demanded change & guess what? NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED.  Perhaps a step forward followed by three steps backward.  A dribble of change here and there, but no real progress.


It’s time to change our strategy.


Over and over again, we keep asking for a change for a population that, ONE, the general public really doesn’t care about and much of the population LOATHES!


And, TWO, the general public barely knows that population at all. How can we expect them to care about a population they don’t know?


If we really want change; if we want the public to care enough about prisoners and their loved ones to make real changes, we will stop the insanity; we will stop the cajoling; the begging; the demanding long enough to put a face on the population we are seeking change for…we will introduce the public to the REAL Faces of Mass Incarceration if we really want the public to care.


The fastest way to reach the most people is by visually transmitting images of those real faces to the public. Take advantage of the documentary already available for this very purpose; use the Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary to compel discussion and change hearts and minds about the prison family by showing it and discussing it at all of your presentations—classroom discussions; community meetings; social justice events.  If you want real reform, you’ll put a face on it before you even ask!


Order your download of the Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary at and STOP THE INSANITY, NOW.


We Want Society to Stop Living in Unnecessary Fear

We intentionally slowed down the announcement of the release of the Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary-#1. Admittedly, we overlooked some aspects of its promotion and have taken a couple steps backward to move forward more effectively.

Our initial notices were met with some questions about the purpose for the documentary, indicating some community members aren’t clear about why it is critical to put a face on the incarcerated and their loved ones. Well………..

Why is It Critical to Put a Face on the Members of the Prison Family?


People in general fear prisoners and anything related to prison, including children of prisoners! Putting a face on this feared population will make them less frightening. We hope to reduce the fear-factor to promote acceptance and support of those who are affected by mass incarceration.

Many credible studies on the topic of “fear” indicate that above all else, we all fear the “unknown.” In fact, virtually all fear is the result of coming face to face with the unknown, making the unknown the basis of the “Fight or Flight” concept.

When faced with almost anything unknown—a new job; a kidnapper; a new relationship; a burglary in progress; a medical diagnosis; a gun in our face; the first time repelling down a cliff; meeting a prisoner or former prisoner for the first time the outcome is UNKNOWN and we experience varying degrees of fear. Some of us will fight through the fear to face the unknown challenge.  For others the fear is too great to face, sending them running in the opposite direction.  So……………


Why don’t people get to know prisoners and returning prisoners so they won’t fear them?

The simple answer is society as a whole hates stepping out of it’s comfort zone and people grow comfortable AVOIDING what they fear. To step out of a comfort zone means facing fears of the unknown, and for the typical citizen anything related to prison is an unknown.

We may have the largest prison system in the entire world, with over 2.5 million prisoners, but our country is much larger than that with 321.4 million people. Even if we consider the commonly held belief that each prisoner directly affects 38 additional people by his or her incarceration, we’d only be talking about 95 million people, one-third of the nation’s population.  So the majority of our population remains personally unaffected by mass incarceration.  That means for about two-thirds of the population “prison” and prisoners are an UNKNOWN and being unknown they become something to fear.


Only bad people go to prison, don’t they? So, why would anyone care about them?

Stigma has always been associated with incarceration. Despite the fact that more times than not that stigma is unjustified, the larger mainstream community has always chosen to believe the false myths and erroneous stereotypes about prisoners and anyone associated with them and steers clear of anything even remotely related to “prison,”


So how will mainstream society ever know the prison family and get over their fear?

They won’t if they keep avoiding the prison family.  It’s impossible to know something you won’t even allow yourself to look at; something you refuse to engage with at all.

But, we’d like to introduce them to some real Faces of Mass Incarceration, if they let us.


If you won’t talk to someone, how will you ever know what makes them tick?

You won’t. Of course what you don’t realize with all of the avoidance is that you are shunning and rejecting the very people already standing right next to you at places you work, worship and even play.  So, you are already interacting with prison family members all of the time and don’t even know it.

That’s right. Because society has shamed this entire population into isolation, they are hidden in plain sight. We’d just like to bring them out in the open and introduce them to you and society.

You can help our society stop living with unnecessary fear

Watch for news on the Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary coming your way.  Plan to use the documentary to meet and introduce society to many of the real people affected by mass incarceration.  You can already see information about the documentary on this website.


Before Releasing Our Documentary

Faces of Mass Incarceration FilmWe fear what we do not know and there is a vicious cycle of fear surrounding an entire unknown population — THE PRISON FAMILY. 


We tend to fear any person labeled with the word “PRISON,” whether they have actually been incarcerated or whether they are a loved one of someone who has been incarcerated.  (We even tend to fear the members of the system that incarcerates people – the police who arrest them; the judges who sentence them to prison; the jailers who confine them to prison – but that is a  discussion for another time.  Right now we are talking about prisoners and their loved ones – the prison family.)


Prison family members are unknown & feared, 1ST  of all, because of the shame and embarrassment they endure just by being arrested  and incarcerated or even just for having someone they love become incarcerated.


Now days, when someone is arrested and thrown in the county jail, everyone immediately assumes they have done something very wrong and that makes them a very bad person.  Then they assume everyone associated with the arrested person is bad, just because they care about the arrested person. 


Somehow society as a whole has lost sight of the belief that a “PERSON IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY IN A COURT OF LAW.”  Today, we jump to the conclusion that a person is guilty upon arrest, especially if it is announced in the media.

In any case, we all need to think how we would like to be judged and labeled forevermore by the worst thing we’ve ever done in life?  All of us, including prisoners are the sum-total of far more than our one worst act.


In fact many, there are thousands and thousands of remarkable people who are incarcerated in this country.  In fact, many innocent people – TENS OF THOUSANDS of them – are arrested and incarcerated and LATER – OFTEN DECADES LATER –  PROVEN INNOCENT AND EXONERATED, but they can never erase the stain from their reputation that they “just might have done something wrong.”  So we have all of these people isolating and withdrawing from society in shame.  They begin to become faceless and invisible, because no one can see them any more, and because no one sees them, they become unknown and feared.


 Then, because they are feared, prison family members isolate & withdraw EVEN MORE from the mainstream society until they become  totally invisible, faceless shadow figures.  There,  they remain, unknown and feared, often forever — until they die alone.


About 9o% of all that fear is unnecessary and if people will just hear us out and look at this documentary, they will begin to see that there is very little to fear in the first place.
For example:  Take a look at this picture of me standing right next to the producer of our documentary! Do I look scared?  Well, according to society’s all too common belief, I should not only look scared, I SHOULD BE SCARED, because Matt Duhamel, the extraordinary intelligent person who skillfully and respectfully  produced our Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary is a former prisoner!





Goodness, in this incarcerated nation, the largest jailer in the entire world, why would anyone be surprised to learn that the person standing right next to them at work or even at worship or play has spent time – often a very long time – in prison? And guess what? 95% of those 2.5 MILLION prisoners who are incarcerated in the U.S. WILL BE RETURNING TO YOUR COMMUNITIES! 95%! So it behooves us to get to know them, so we don’t spend our own lives living in fear!


And, by the way, exactly what should a person who has spent time in prison look like?

Most of the former prisoners I’ve known over the past 40 years or so look very much like Matt!  Smiling, friendly, thoughtful, caring, having learned some powerful lessons and enjoying their 2nd Chance at life kind of people!
I know that, because I once said “YES,” when I really wanted to say “NO..ABSOLUTELY NOT,” and am I ever glad I did, because I now know that the most amazing people I’ve ever known in my life have all been affected by mass incarceration…(And that, too is a story for another time.  Back to our documentary.)


As this introductory documentary reveals face after face of the remarkable people snared by our nation’s ever-growing criminal justice system, and more and more people come to know the formerly invisible human beings behind those faces,  fears will subside.


It is our intent to add new faces to the documentary over the next two years, until a full length film becomes available to reduce and eventually eradicate the unnecessary fears that disenfranchieg tens of thousands of valuable human beings in our country–simply because they are associated with the word–“PRISON.”


Get your download of Faces of Mass Incarceration today and begin sharing the documentary every opportunity you have — classrooms, community meetings, church groups, social justice organizations, business meetings — Do your part to eliminate the fear caused by unnecessary  shame and erroneous myths that plague millions of  prison families.


These are just some of the comments we heard from attendees at the 2017 InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference when we previewed the documentary for them last month:








We’d love to see your comments about the documentary.  SO…Be bold.  Be brave.  Just take a look at this documentary and erase some of your own fears, and then show it wherever and whenever you can – at your schools; your churches; your business meetings (former prisoners make THE BEST employees!), at your social and professional club meetings and of course at your advocacy events, and watch as fears begin to subside.  Help us put faces on the prison family to reduce the unnecessary crippling fears that are actually diminishing the quality of life in our country – and that, too, is a discussion for another day.