Strengthening the Mother-Daughter Bond
Hugs were permitted, but they were timed.
After just a few seconds, a guard would tell Brittany Byrd, then 22, and her mother that they had to part. Each day that Brittany left her mother behind the barbed-wire prison fence, she felt a lurch in her stomach.
“Even as a young adult woman, I was greatly affected by Mother’s incarceration,” she says. “It was tough not having her there for holidays and birthdays. I hated that I couldn’t call her every day.”
During those visits, Byrd, a 2006 accounting graduate, was struck by the dynamics of the other mother-daughter relationships she observed. For the younger girls, she figured the experience was even harder.
“They have to deal with feelings of abandonment, self-esteem issues, a general sense of sadness and even resentment. Then there’s this overwhelming love. No matter what crime your mother committed, at the end of the day, that’s still Mama.”
Three years into her mother’s eight-year sentence, Byrd started a nonprofit organization, Girls Embracing Mothers. Through character cultivation workshops and enhanced visitation sessions, GEM empowers young women with incarcerated moms to make positive life choices while helping sustain mother-daughter bonds. In early 2013 GEM announced a partnership with state women’s prisons in Gatesville, Texas.
Now a lawyer at Winstead PC, Byrd recently was named Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. She says her relationship with her mother, who’s no longer in prison, is stronger than ever. Their shared journey motivates her.
“I believe I had to experience the incarceration of my mother so that I could give back to younger girls going through the same thing,” she says. “It’s something I’m obligated to do, and it brings me joy.”