“Still My Mother, Still My Father” is an ongoing, long-term series that documents bonding meetings between children and their mothers and fathers at twelve men’s and women’s prisons in the state of Florida. More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent, and approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives. Nationally, there are more than 120,000 incarcerated mothers and 1.1 million incarcerated fathers who are parents of minor children. Documenting family bonding visits affords me the opportunity to not only tackle mass incarceration from a humanistic standpoint, but to also explore these experiences as escapes and temporarily fulfilled fantasies for both child and parent.
Children of Inmates, an organization dedicated to bringing incarcerated families together, facilities these unusual visits, where parents have intimate contact with their children through physical interaction, game playing, singing and gift giving. This program greatly differs from conventional visits, as it is a bonding experience for both inmate and child. Parents perform their identities as mothers and fathers, as volunteers instruct them to get into full “mommy” or “daddy’ mode. Isaiah, age eleven, sees his mom every three months, while Travis, age twelve, tearfully embraces his dad, who prays as he wraps his arm around his son for the first time in seven years.