Prisons and Parenting

I sat down in the prison visitation room, staring at the empty seat on the other side of the reinforced glass, waiting. It felt like I was doing way too much of that lately. I felt useless. And that feeling was exaggerated when I had to hand over my sidearm while in the prison.

None of this made any sense. I had been against him going to work for his father in the first place. I knew the elder Mr. Shaw was dirty. I’d seen it, but I had no evidence. And evidence is all that mattered to Bram, his father, and the courts. Within just a few months, Bram had been more difficult to talk to, and he was more secretive than he had ever been in college. Then he was charged with insider trading and sent here last week. Having been one of the most honest men I’d known in my life, that didn’t make sense. And in my first visit, Bram had confirmed as much with his pleas for help proving his innocence. 

Then I got reports yesterday about a drastic change in behavior from Bram. He’d been fighting, and not just other prisoners as might be expected, but guards, cooks, and anyone he could get his hands on. I had to see it for myself.

I didn’t have to wait too long.

Screaming and shouting reached my ears well before the doorway to the prison interior smashed open. It took three guards to secure Bram and get him into his seat, despite his having already been handcuffed.

His face turned to me with a feral snarl and bulging eyes. But for a moment, so fast I wasn’t sure it had happened, the expression slipped into a hint of surprise and dread. He was back to growling at me before I could be sure it had even happened.

“Oh. It’s you.”

“Hey, buddy,” I said with a small wave.

“What do you want, Harold? You shouldn’t be here,” he sneered.

“I hear that my peaceful best friend has started to punch almost everyone he sees. Where else should I be?” I held open palms to him, pleading that he be open with me.

“Maybe stabbing us in the back again, I don’t know.” He jerked toward the glass, but a guard’s shoulders held him down.

“What are you talking about?” I asked as my brow furrowed. I didn’t like where this was going.

“My dad told me what you did. It’s all your fault that I’m in here. That investigation you launched turned up planted evidence of crimes my father and I never committed.” His foot banged against the metal separating our feet.

I sighed. I hadn’t wanted to worry him about the investigation, so I had left him out of it. “Bram, I knew you might be angry that I started investigating your dad, I get that. But I didn’t plant any evidence. Your father is lying to you. I didn’t want you to go to jail. I know you are innocent.” I smiled, hoping that would clear some things up.

But Bram just gritted his teeth at me. “He said you would say that.”

“Come on, man,” I pleaded. “What can I tell you to convince you of the truth?”

“I already know it. So, you should just leave.”

“I have five more minutes.”

“You really should just get out of here, for your own good,” Bram said, and for a moment, I thought I saw pleading in his face. I could tell his legs were bouncing around; an old nervous habit of his.

“You might be satisfied with the crap your father has landed you in, but I’m not going to give up on you,” I growled. My anger at the situation had started to overcome my pity. “If you’d rather believe a greedy, lying scumbag like your father more than someone who wants to get you out of prison, that’s on you. I however am going to make sure the truth…”


The explosion shook everyone to the ground, and an instant later, the door behind Bram blasted open to reveal a mangled hallway littered with debris, but with rays of sunlight streaming through the dust.

Before I could react, Bram was out of his seat, bashing the distracted guards’ heads with whatever he could find.

“Stop, Bram!” I shouted and banged on the glass. “This will only get worse!”

He didn’t look back as he disappeared down a path that I assumed led to what he thought was freedom.

I ran back through the visiting area, past panicking guards and visitors to the security check where I’d left my weapon. Nobody sat at the desk, but with a few pounds at the desk, I got someone’s attention.

“Just evacuate the building please. We’ll sort everything…” she tried to say in passing.

But I slammed my badge against the bars separating us. “I’m a cop. I can help, chase down some of the escaped inmates, but I need my weapon.”

The corrections officer looked around, wondering what to do for a moment. But she approached and held out her hand. 

“What’s your box number?”

I handed her the key. “Twelve.”

Shouts and alarms filled the air as I waited, tapping my toe on the ground. I had to stop Bram from making his situation worse. Looking back on the conversation, the way he was acting made me think he knew the explosion was going to happen. And I would feel safe putting money on his father being behind it all.

“There’s nothing there,” the officer said as she came back. “And I can’t really take time to sort this out right now. Sorry.” And with that, she was gone.

I didn’t have time to think about it either. I had to catch Bram before he got hurt or   committed an actual crime. Moving as fast as possible through the chaos, I ran out of the prison, flashing my badge whenever an officer stopped me. I saw some inmates back in handcuffs and under control, but a quick look told me that he hadn’t been rounded back up yet.

Several flashes of orange jumpsuit caught my eye in the distance, making for the tree-line. But one of them limped familiarly, as if from an old injury sustained in football tryouts in an attempt to impress a dispassionate father that couldn’t care less. I sighed in slight relief. Now that I knew where he was going, I could catch up with him pretty quickly.

I began jogging, trying not to draw too much attention. I had to bring Bram back alone, and without incident. It would be hard enough to try and prove his innocence without adding this breakout to the mix.

After a few minutes of tramping through the woods, I heard a rustle of leaves and a whisper. I slowed to a walk and moved in that direction. The sunlight streamed through thousands of breaks in the leaves, casting an odd mix of shadow and brilliant color over every surface that made things difficult to make out very well.

I thought I saw two people. However, just as I realized they weren’t wearing prison jumpsuits, pain exploded my head, and everything spun as I fell.

My back slamming against a tree jarred me back to consciousness. Two men held me in place by my arms as a third stood before me.

“It’s nice to see you again, detective,” Mr. Shaw greeted.

The reply I wanted to give was muffled by the gag that barely let me breathe.

“I know what you are probably thinking, and you’re right. I did organize the breakout to get my son out of prison, though you’ll never be able to prove it.”

I struggled against the arms that held me, but they wouldn’t budge. 

“You’ve probably been wondering why I would do such a thing after I went through so much trouble to get him in there.”

This was something I wanted to hear, since it had been confusing me.

Bram’s dad held up a gloved hand holding a pistol. My pistol. “I thought it would be a pretty poetic way to make your investigation into my activities go away, and get rid of my pathetic offspring at the same time.”

At that moment, I recognized a spot of orange off through the trees that wasn’t foliage.

Mr. Shaw must have seen my glance. “Yes. That’s him, waiting to meet me in that clearing so I can take him out of the country to live in a tropical paradise.” He lifted the gun and leveled it at his son. “It’s too bad you’re going to kill him.”

Desperation flooded my body with adrenaline and I head-butted one of my captors, releasing my arm to land a nose-breaking punch into the other. Muscles coiled and I lunged at the sociopathic criminal still aiming for Bram.





This doesn’t follow the dream that I had precisely. I’d lost my sword instead of a gun, and I was running across rooftops, but the heart of the dream remains the same. It was about someone I cared for being manipulated by someone who feigned that caring.

Recently in my life, I have encountered others in similar situations, though not as deadly. Without going into too much detail, a friend of mine has an ex that has basically poisoned her son against her, all while presenting the front of a man who was the victim of a selfish and careless woman. While she tried to protect her son from getting involved in the messier parts of divorce by saying as little as possible to upset him, his dad set the standard with lies to gain pity. After that, whenever she tries to tell her son the truth of what happened, or how things are, all the dad has to do is deny it and say it’s a mistake or a lie. And since that is what the manipulated child heard first, he believes it. Because of this, he has gone from a child who could hardly be away from his mother without getting upset, and turned into a cold, secluded, backbiting, and generally unhappy child that believes so many lies about life that I fear a very rude awakening when his dad can no longer hide the world from him. It is painful to see him go through this, not to mention the pain he puts on his mother with his yelling and hateful comments.

I know that this situation is not at all unique. There are plenty of families that are in similar situations. I pray that not as many have to deal with the extremely self-centered actions of a sociopath like my friend has to endure. Even if a split family only has differences of methods of how to raise the shared children, that situation is difficult enough. Divorce alone is extremely confusing for a child.

But when one party purposefully manipulates the naïveté of their own child who adores them, what can you do?

In my dream, I could do nothing for Bram, who had been guided by his father’s lies into not trusting me, one who truly cared and had the power to help. We feel like there is nothing my friend can do with her son, who has been guided to thinking that anything his mom does to try to help teach him or improve his life and future is awful and wrong. I hope that I reached Mr. Shaw before he killed his own son. What can she do before a more realistic equivalent happens with her family?

I don’t have an answer to this question. I wish I did. All I can think of is to hope and pray for the truth to rain down on anyone being lied to before the lies they believe permanently harm their lives. If anyone else has thoughts about this, please let me know.

For now, I will encourage her to show her son all the love and care she has, no matter what happens. And in the end, I think that might be all that anyone can actively do for their friends and family. Eventually, if the naive go out into the world, they will discover the incongruities between what they have been told and the truths that become apparent. 

Again, this isn’t really much of an answer of what we can do in such situations, and I wish there was more, which is why this blog is shorter than most. But if any of my readers has any ideas on how to help these loved ones, please comment or email me your ideas.