As everyone knows a prison record is an ongoing

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As everyone knows, a prison record is an ongoing handicap for a man struggling to be a responsible father and support his children. 11 Tasheika, introduced earlier, tells a particularly poignant tale about the employ- ment problems her baby’s father had because of his criminal record and the effect on their family life. “He was there [for me until after the baby
HOW DOES THE DREAM DIE? 87 was born,] but he got incarcerated. He got mixed up in his other life, and all of that stopped. [After he got out,] he had a lot of issues, you know? He was trying to take care of the family, but he didn’t have a job because he been in and out of prison . . . . And then he wasn’t able to take care of the child, and he just gave up.” She concludes, “Me and him were so close . . . [but] it wasn’t worth nothing, and here I go again. Had to start all over again and do things differently, meet the different guys, and things like that.” “HE LOVED HIS DRUG MORE THAN HE LOVED HIS FAMILY.” Rose, an African American mother of four children ranging in age from two to fourteen and now in her early thirties, says her relationship with the two younger children’s father broke down when his return to his “street” associations led to a pattern of heavy drinking and an addiction to drugs. “After Charles was born, we was doing fine. We still remained in the relationship. [But] he loved to associate with different friends on the street . . . . To me they were strays. You bring a stray home [because it] is out in the street and no one else want it . . . . Then he started to as- sociate more [with them], like hanging out in the bar drinking and car- rying on like that. I was never one for hanging out in bars or drinking, you know . . . . [Then] I come to find out he was a druggie! He does drugs and I didn’t know it.” It is impossible to overemphasize the devastating impact of drugs and alcohol on the lives of the men in the eight communities we studied. Outside observers often find it impossible to ignore the public displays of these addictions, the men with bloodshot eyes drinking “forties” on the stoops, the strung-out addicts huddled in doorways or weaving down the sidewalks. But the destruction these toxins wreak inside of the fam- ily is equally profound. Drugs and alcohol can quickly transform men who are valued partners and fathers into villains who threaten the well- being of the family.
88 HOW DOES THE DREAM DIE? Thirty-one-year-old Toby, a white mother of two children, ages one and nine, recalls a “wonderful” relationship with her younger child’s fa- ther before he became addicted to cocaine. She tells us, “I tried so much, but there was nothing I could do or say [to make him stop]. I had to throw him out. I almost lost my apartment [because he started spending all our money on drugs]—I had a very nice little apartment, and that was my home. I wasn’t going to lose it for him. That was my and my daughter’s home, and I told him that he needed to leave.” “He’s out of control,” she finishes. “There’s nothing I can do for him. He’s not going to take food

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