Living with Parents in Prison: Ashley C. Ford Visits Campus

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Ashley C. Ford’s spoke to DePauw students detailing her life as the child of an incarcerated parent and how the criminal justice system affects children like her. 

Ford began her talk Thursday night by speaking of her life as a child. Her father went to prison for sexual assault when she was six months old and was released before her 30th birthday. 

“I was punished for something I didn’t do,” Ford said. “I want you to consider that the children left behind by mass incarceration have great potential.” 

Sophomore Abigail Walker was in charge of organizing Ford’s visit to campus. 

“It was really incredible. I was really impressed…definitely will be thinking about what she said for a while,” Walker said. 

Along with serving as the 2019 Dorothy Garrett Martin Lecture in Ethics and Values, Ford has been featured in publications such as ELLE and Buzzfeed. Ford is currently working on a memoir titled ‘Somebody’s Daughter,’ about her experience growing up with her father incarcerated.

“I don’t want to tell you that my father did not deserve to go to prison. My father committed a horrific crime,” Ford said.

As a small child, Ford said she didn’t know why her father was in prison, but when she was a victim of sexual assault herself, she said she gained a better understanding of his charges. 

Although Ford’s mother had dreams of a husband and children to take care of, she became a single mother after Ford’s father was incarcerated. 

“My father’s decisions took that away from her,” Ford said

At the talk, Ford provided some alternative forms of justice, like restorative justice, instead of just locking people up. She also discussed the reality of mass incarceration and its effect on the families left behind. According to Ford, it costs about 14 cents to $1 per minute to speak with an incarcerated person and in-person visits can be difficult to secure. 

Ford said, “Humans cannot be thrown away. But we can absolutely do something about the way we treat each other.”