December 25, 2012

In jail for Christmas

Eight Maine mothers, locked up because of substance abuse, talk about living, learning and what they're missing.

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Inmates talk about missing the holidays, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, at the Cumberland County Jail. Jaden Brown of Portland, mother of three, speaks about being incarcerated during Christmas.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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Inmate Jessica Dennison of Portland embraces the Rev. Jeffrey McIlwain after speaking to the press about being incarcerated during Christmas.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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"It's nice being in here, sober, so you look back at what you did," Perreault said. "I'm kind of happy I'm in here. It's kind of like rehab."

Kristy Cookson of New Gloucester, who is being held on a probation violation charge, surprised some of the other women when she said she has five children.

Her three oldest, who are 13, 12 and 8, now live with her mother and grandmother in Florida. Her two youngest, who are 19 months and 4, live with their father in Maine, she said.

"It's really hard, and over Christmas, I feel like I've let them down," Cookson said.

She said her youngest children are too young to really understand, but her older children know the family's Christmas traditions.

"My son, my oldest, he said I'm the best mom ever," Cookson said. "It's amazing how your kids can forgive you and still love you."

Tears rolled down Cookson's face as she struggled to keep talking. Many of the other women wiped their eyes, too, prompting McIlwain to quickly hand out tissues.

"I do believe God does everything for a reason," Cookson said.

But later, she said it isn't her fault that she's in jail this time. She was with someone who was drinking, and that person's actions led her to be charged with a probation violation.

Some of the women who had cried with her earlier immediately interrupted her, one saying Cookson couldn't blame someone else and another telling her to "own it."

Cookson conceded and agreed that she could learn a lesson. She said she was thankful that her children weren't there when she was arrested.

"The excuse is done," said Jaden Brown of Portland.

Brown, who's only 22, said she has learned already that she's headed down the wrong path.

She remembers past holidays when her mother was locked up.

Now, she has two sons, ages 5 and 2, and a 4-year-old daughter.

"My mom's in prison for 10 years, so I know exactly how it feels," Brown said.

Brown lost custody of her youngest son to the state because she and the child's father went to jail.

"I can't cry about it. All that's ever done for me is gotten me to the bottom of a bottle of brandy," Brown said. "I've actually taken from jail a lot, from the AA meetings to the NA meetings to the Bible study."

She said older women who come back to the jail as volunteers have taught her that if she keeps doing drugs and drinking, she will waste half of her life.

"Orange is not my color," she said, referring to her jail uniform and drawing laughter from the other women. "When I get out, I hope that I'm going to do something different."


Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Kristy Cookson of New Gloucester, mother of five, weeps after talking about being incarcerated during Christmas.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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Jessica Dennison of Portland, right, listens as Jaden Brown of Portland speaks about being incarcerated during Christmas.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer


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