Reflections from Patty’s Daughter on Mother’s Day 2023 and a Call to Action
*Trigger warning as this is an emotional plea.*
On May 11th, 1986 – Mother’s Day- we visited our mother in prison for the first time. It was my youngest sister’s 11th birthday. None of us had ever visited a prison before. We didn’t know the rules and we made several mistakes. Grandma brought a cake with us and Grandpa had bought a red rose at the gas station on the way. At that facility there was a guard shack by the parking lot. The guards were rude to us like we were in trouble as soon as we walked in. Grandpa filled out the forms and tried his best to be polite. But soon we were told no cake, no rose, nothing in our pockets, no purses, no hats and more. We had to go back to the car to take everything back. Our entire family’s stress level was off the charts but the way we had just been treated was too much for my Grandma. She threw the cake across the parking lot and beat the rose on our car screaming and crying until it disintegrated. Grandpa took the plastic and remaining stem from her clenched hand and very sternly said “Everyone get it together.” My brothers retrieved the cake now smashed in its package. My sisters and I tried to comfort Grandma. We put everything in the car, checked everyone’s pockets and returned to the line. Strangers were crying for us. Over the years I’ve cried for the new people often but I can’t imagine the sight of us that day. Two grandparents and five sobbing children ages 8 to 16. We sucked it up as our new usual set in. We made it through this time and I was scared to death. It was a co-ed prison at that time and I had no idea who we would be around. It wasn’t like on TV through glass and on a phone. It was a room full of tables and vending machines. We were told to sit and to wait. Mom finally came out and she was so happy to see us. We all hugged and cried. Her strength to hold it together for her parents and us kids was astounding. Talk about sucking it up. We were able to play on a playground part of the time. Everyone around looked like just regular people. No one looked near as evil or mean as I expected. I even saw a beautiful red-headed girl around my age. I was so surprised she was a prisoner. Mom said she was 16. Just my age! Turns out the guy she was riding with held up a liquor store and she was charged as an accessory. Whoa! Then Mom said “ You wouldn’t believe how many young women are here and how many need a good role model.” I was crushed. I could see that my mother was finding her place as a helper. But I needed help. We all needed our own mother. I was very angry at her and at the entire situation for many years. Who am I kidding? I still am angry often. The injustice of Mom’s wrongful incarceration is maddening and the exasperated wound of our first visit being on Mother’s Day still hurts.
It hurts too that the Missouri Governor’s office has sat on my mother’s clemency petition for over 12 years, years that include current Governor Mike Parson’s entire 5 year tenure. The Governor’s office has been contacted by thousands of people- religious leaders, corrections officials, legal experts, and others- who have urged him to act to correct injustice, show mercy, and end the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars to keep my mom locked up.
I have asked for a meeting with the Governor or his staff multiple times over the years; I have not received a response.
What more can we do?
Since this clemency petition was submitted in 2010, my mom lost her mother, her father, her sister, and her brother. She has missed marriages, funerals, birthdays, and countless other joys and challenges where it would have meant so much to have my mother by my side. Instead, in each of these important moments there is a void–a void that could be filled if Governor Parson would finally act.
In a September 2021 press release, Governor Parson said, “When I became Governor, we pledged to do things differently than they had been done before, and that included addressing the backlog of more than 3,500 clemency applications sitting in the Governor’s Office.” Indeed the Governor has acted on thousands of petitions, but my mother’s petition has been in limbo for more than a dozen years while we all wait. I am praying that he acts soon and reunites what is left of a family while it is still here. Please contact Governor Mike Parson and tell him to free my mom, Patty Prewitt. Thank you for listening.
Patty’s daughter Jane makes moving plea to Governor Mike Parson
Just days before Mother’s Day, Patty Prewitt’s daughter Jane wrote a moving letter that was published in the Kansas City Star. Noting that her mother entered prison 34 years ago last week, Jane writes that her mother “was forced to leave us five children behind. I was 16, and my youngest sibling was 8. We became orphans. Not only had our father been killed, but our poor mother was raped, dragged through the mud, wrongly convicted and then imprisoned.”
“Here we are 34 years later. Unbelievably, through it all, Mom has made us proud. She has continued to mother us the best she could through phone calls, letters and visits. She’s helped countless women from behind bars.”
Jane writes that she and her husband have a bedroom waiting for Patty, who is vulnerable to COVID-19 given her age and medical conditions. Read the full letter here. In 2018, Jane penned another article that can be viewed here. Want to add your voice in support of Patty’s release? Visit this page to learn how to contact the Governor.
Please, Gov. Mike Parson, be our hero with a stroke of your pen and allow our family to be reunited.”Jane Watkins
Missouri Governor Mike Parson has the power to free Patty Prewitt.