Opinion-My Cares Act Home Confinement Story-Kara Adams Eyer

Kara Adams Eyer tells her story of home confinement below.  Her family’s story is that of loss and suffering in a system that over punishes non-violent first time offenders with long sentences, and rips apart families.  Her story is just one example of the changes that are needed in the mass incarceration that is our country’s criminal justice system.

President Biden made campaign promises to work for criminal justice reform.  So far no movement by his administration has been seen to implement his promises.  If the President were to send over 4,000 returning citizens released under the Cares Act, like Kara, back to prison when the pandemic ends, he would be authorizing a day of mass incarceration.

If families have already suffered when their loved one went to prison–what would the implications be upon their return?  What impact would this return to prison have on the mental health of those returned, as well as the family members left behind to pick up the pieces–AGAIN?  Individuals released under the Cares Act have reunited with family, leased housing, purchased transportation, obtained employment, and have proven that they are law abiding productive citizens.  #KeepThemHome

Midnight Marketplace

By: Kara Adams Eyer

In 2010, my husband and I were both indicted by the Federal Government for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. I was detained and held for nine months, because my first and second request for bond was rejected. During this time as my children (ages 3 and 15) were suffering, the agents were searching for and seizing all our personal and business assets. At my third bond hearing the judge walked out without making a ruling. Once they had finished seizing our assets and after my fourth attempt at bond, I was released with an ankle monitor on home detention.

My entire family suffered through two tortuous years of being investigated, me being locked up in jail, evicted from our properties, agents calling on my child’s school and even calling family members from my first marriage. We had so many arguments with our own attorneys, including ones about how the system is broken, and the destruction of our business records while in the hands of the government, which rendered them useless for me at trial.

I believed in the system with all my heart, and I thought that if I went to trial the truth would come out. Even when I was offered a 7 ½ year plea deal, I still believed and so I exercised my right to go to trial. My husband on the other hand, had little faith in a system that appeared to be rigged from the onset. After many long discussions and sleepless nights, we agreed that he would take a plea, and I would go to trial. It was important for our family that one of us be home for the kids within a decade, a weight I would carry my whole sentence. At the end of 2011 and into 2012, my family’s life went to hell.  I was going to prison, sentenced to 17 1/2 years as a first-time non-violent offender, and besides the jail time, none of the shame or home detention would count towards the long sentence.  We all went home and just cried.

One thing is for sure, my whole family’s lives changed at indictment, but my sentence made it where none of our lives will ever be the same again.

My husband and I would have to leave our children behind to pick up the pieces.  The littlest being only 5, he had just started school and I would be gone for his entire education, as I would not be able to reunite until he was 21. How do you begin to explain something like that to a 5-year-old?  For my oldest, well he was embarrassed and after the eviction he had stopped going to school.  Later, because of his age, he was able to hide his feelings because everyone was flipped upside down, they failed to see his dimming light and he simply appeared on the outside that he would be able to get through it.

You see, I had paid for the home where my parents lived, and it was seized during the government’s taking.  So, their life was turned upside down as well.  My sister was Power Of Attorney over some of my properties I had on the market, so she was brought into the indictment as well.  After her indictment, I was forbidden to see her without the court’s approval until she agreed to a misdemeanor.  My brother lost his livelihood as the government seized the construction company’s assets that he managed. My children inherited a family in chaos with no parents.  Slowly my parents reestablished their life by using most of their retirement to move to a city close to the prison I was at in Tallahassee.  They did that so I could maintain a relationship with my children.  I thank GOD for my parents because they did all of this while trying to make sure two, really six, broken children were okay, and on top of it all my dad’s health deteriorated.

I went to prison, got visits on the weekends and had to do what I had to do.  In 2018 the bottom fell out of the sky.  I lost my oldest son Alex months after losing both my in-laws.   Alex had been really broken by this experience.  He once told me the hardest thing he has ever had to do in life was losing me.  He coped with it all by drinking.  Late one night in April, he passed away in an unfortunate and questionable accident involving a train.  There are no words or actions that can express a loss like that.  In prison, it is much worse.  First you must maintain yourself in your grief, if you fall apart like you want to, they will put you in lockdown for your own safety. I would cry in my bed at night when the lights were off thinking why and all about how my littlest one was mentally dealing with all this trauma.  I would think about my children and how this process is wrong on so many levels.   I am a fighter, so I turned my grief into my spiritual quests and my thoughts into discovering ways to protect the innocent, like Alex.

Shortly after Alex’s death, Hurricane Michael destroyed the prison in Marianna. I was relocated to Coleman Prison, contracted Legionella and by a miracle, I was going to home confinement.  My brother and son came to pick me up and I finally left prison after doing 50% of my time.  My son smiled the whole way from Coleman to Atlanta.

The CARES Act was a GOD sent for us and the answered prayers for so many families across this country.  I consider myself fortunate during a time of such sorrow. After spending one night in the halfway house, I was sent straight to home confinement with an ankle monitor. I was told while getting my release paperwork that I was the longest person they had ever seen on home confinement; my home confinement date was set to 2025.  I was out five days before my husband and thanks to my continued ability to fight in the courts, we owe zero in restitution.

My husband arrived at the halfway house a few days later.  I was told to come back to the halfway house the same day my husband arrived to take a drug test. Looking through the crowds, I got to see him for a few minutes and after almost 9 years my heart nearly leaped out of my chest.  You could see it in our tired eyes, now we were years older and had been through it, had shared somewhat the same experience and it was finally over.  Alas, we now could face all the aftermath of this experience together.  At the time, we really thought it was for the rest of my sentence.  He had to spend a few months in the halfway house before he came home.  That’s when we got busy starting our life all over again.

Over the last year, I have been able to take care of my son and home school him.  I get to see his smile first thing in the morning and fuss with him about the time he spends on gaming.  He is finally happy after months of awkwardness.  It took time to get to this point because he just was not use to me.  Just when I finally get things back on track, all is being threatened.

Frankly, it is not easy coming back into the gap.  You feel weird and out of place.  I didn’t even know how to work a phone and all that I did know was now obsolete.  While home, I have been taking courses to recertify myself in computer programs, coding, design and learn about social media.  When I went to prison, Myspace was the social media hype and Facebook was just launched. I had so many plans, but everything had changed so much I needed to educate myself and reacclimate myself to daily living and the new challenges I would face.  I was handicapped by the long absence.  I’ve studied hard and still there is so much more to learn. I’ve been grinding it out one day at a time.

I also got to spend the last four months of my dad’s life with him before he passed.  I still cry when I think about it. If it had not been for CARES, I would have lost another family member while in prison. I was able to help take care and homeschool my nieces and nephews, so their parents could work during the Pandemic.

I was able to take my mom to get the vaccine because she is older. She was fine after the first dose, but the second one has made her sick.  She has been hospitalized, tested and they are still running tests.  She has been my haven, picking up the pieces of my family and now she is the one who needs me. She needs me to return all that she has given, if only for me to just sit beside her when she doesn’t feel well or get her an iced caramel Frappuccino to make her smile. She loves them.  I did not know that before I came home.  Really, in a 15-minute non-private call per day how much can you really know or learn about your entire family?

I really was never allowed to grieve when Alex died, so I‘ve had to revisit all of that.  Which brought me full fold with those sleepless nights thinking in prison and my current situation.  I don’t want to leave my family again. I started to ask myself questions, “If I would have been home, would this have happened to my son? Why are there time restrictions on home confinement? If you are vetted and found to be as low risk and community safe, would that not mean you are vetted for any time?  If you maintain good behavior, then why is home confinement not a permanent legal option?  Why would the CARES create such a traumatizing experience for my family and so many other families?  What do they really seek when they are enacting punishment?  Does our system want to just punish, or do they want a person who will become law abiding and a productive member of the community?  What was Congress thinking?”

My best-case scenario is that Congress needed to give the prison authority to move prisoners out of dangerous situations like COVID by allowing them extend home confinement for a period for those with longer sentences to reduce the prison population.  In the rush of the CARES ACT, I feel that there was less time because of COVID, to consider all the ramifications. The studies have shown that children are the hidden victims of any incarceration.  The trauma of reuniting a family, only to rip them apart is not just cruel it is inhumane.  Not even the authorities fully understood how it all worked or they would have told us that we would have to come back.  They still do not understand, because most say that they do not think that will ever happen.  Now, after a year, it is confirmed that we will return. We have worked hard to reestablish our lives, renew our relationships in family and in the community. For what?

Just in case you didn’t know, the prison/halfway house calls each one of us all throughout the day and night.  Weekly, I must drive 2 ½ hours every week to check in and do a wellness check and/or drug test. When I do venture out of the home for groceries, hygiene, or a doctor’s appointment. I must call and check in and then call back in when I am home.  I thank God for the halfway house staff, they are kind and seem to genuinely want each one of us to succeed and that is a blessing.   Really, I am physically checked on more now than when I was in prison.  All of it has been worth it.  The time with my family has meant the world. I got to see my dad and build a better relationship with my mom. I got to meet my new nieces and nephews and have enjoyed getting to know each of them. Reuniting with my sisters and brother, hugging my grandma, and catching up with all my friends, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  It has been a happy time.

The disease of thinking that I must go back has attributed to lack of sleep, worry in my mom’s face because she feels helpless and the stress and worry in my husband’s face when the thought of our family being ripped apart again is talked about. Anger in my brother and cousins, and finally disbelief in my aunts and uncles that the government would do something like that to a family.  We all pray that the President, Congress, or the BOP by authorization for a reduction in sentence (RIS and compassionate release for extraordinary circumstances) will intervene and set us free from this separation.  It really does feel like a trial and sentencing all over again.

First, people must understand that the prison sentence is not a true crime deterrent. A sentence only effects the ones who do the time and the ones who are left behind to pick up the pieces alone.  Punishment is not about loss of liberty, a person in prison may not be able to go anywhere they want but they are free from the normal stresses of life, like keeping a roof over their children’s head, giving their children and family warm hugs when they need them, sharing life with their spouse, taking care of their elderly parents, or just having to get a real job.  No, the current punishment system is about loss of love, loss of knowledge on how the real world runs and loss of any real sense of true responsibility. It is a wonder how anyone without family support can get properly on their feet.  The ones that do, deserve the biggest kind of reward for that effort because it is hard if you have done more than 5 years’ time.

Change is here and we need to start questioning a system that promotes an excessive 17 ½ year sentence to a first-time non-violent offender for a telemarketing call.  We need a system that promotes love, compassion, and help because only those lucky enough to have that are truly rehabilitated.  We need to set up programs that work.  A 70% recidivism rate is not a reflection of a person’s character. It is simply, a clear reflection that the system in place is not working.  The CARES Act gave a true test of an alternative to incarceration.  How did the vetted inmates on home confinement do over the last year?  Was the program a success?  I hear that it is the best program results ever.

Does the system not believe that people are different? Punishment works differently for some. When discipling children, time out works for some, while other children need a spanking to understand? I have a nephew that if you just say one word to him, he immediately demonstrates that he is sorry for his actions and no further action is required.

There are those that are so traumatized after one day in prison they would never commit another crime. Yet they must sit for years in suffering for what has already been corrected.  What does that kind of suffering do to the already broken?  Are we a society that just wants punishment or do we want a safe environment by correction?  Is being locked in your own home any different than being locked behind bars?  The national lockdowns during COVID taught us about what it is like to be stuck in our own home and some felt like it was a prison sentence.  Imagine having to stay home and be monitored all day by others, that is still a form of punishment.  The only difference about home confinement over incarceration is that you get to give innocent family members their freedom back while still giving the person a chance to correct her actions before serious traumas are formed on the innocent. A punishment fitting for a first-time non-violent offender who could work to prove correction and contribute back to the community.  The halfway and probation officers are experienced with this type of detention and know what to look for to keep the community safe.

Do you think the CARES home confinement is a success? If you do, then contemplate what will happen to families like mine if I am taken from them again. It will hurt them both financially and emotionally.  If I earned home confinement by demonstrating to the prison to be a person fit to be in the home, then be of mercy and let me stay here.  Stop the hurt! This reunion of families and potential separation creates undue strain on the family for a second time and that progress in the right direction should be considered an extraordinary circumstance that deserves a compassionate second look by the President, Congress and in the least the BOP director in moving for a compassionate release for these extraordinary circumstances.

 

 

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