"My mom's incarceration made me who I am today"

When Alisha Murdock's mother was arrested when Alisha was in 6th grade, the system utterly failed her and she was left on her own to bounce from friend's house to shelter to motel until she was 21.

My mom was taken from me multiple times and the incident that I remember most happened when I was in the sixth grade. I was sitting in my second period class when my neighbors came to my school to tell me that my mom had been arrested and our house had been raided.

I went home to a raided house and had to go through each room and pack it up. It was hard to go into my mom’s room and see needles that confirmed her lifestyle. My neighbors offered me a place to stay for the night but in my distraught state, I did not accept the invitation. My survival mode kicked in immediately, and I just bounced around.

Nobody checked for me. My assumption is that nobody asked about me because no authority ever reached out to let me know what had happened or to give me an update. Also, there was no communication from police regarding the status of my mother and my next steps.

With no adult guidance and no foundation, I was essentially forced to figure life out by myself. Because of my mom’s mistakes, my childhood was put on hold. I was a sixth grader who had to play the role of an adult. This moment set the stage for how I would spend the next few years of my life, in and out of shelters, motels, and friends’ houses until I reached the age of 21.

There should never be a child who literally has to pay for something that their parent did or something that they had no control over. This is something that needs to be addressed and invested in so that we can prevent children from reaping the consequences of their incarcerated parents.

That means extra caution or training. Police and probations officers always mention their safety whenever I talk with them about this. To make an arrest there are two officers needed for their safety. I think there should be a third officer added whose job would be to determine whether or not the person has a child.

The experience of my mom’s incarceration has everything to do with who I am today. One of the biggest things is that it introduced me to social justice and my passion to work with young people who have been through the same thing that I went through. There must be something in place to benefit the child regardless of what their parents did. We have to be the ones telling people, when you lock up our parents, it’s also us being affected. They have to hear us; this is our life too.


Alisha Murdock carried the secret of her mother’s incarceration for over a decade. She wants to let children of incarcerated parents know that they are resilient and not alone in their struggles. Murdock is the youth justice program manager for RYSE Youth Center, an organization that creates safe spaces to help young people learn, heal, and transform their lives and communities.