When federal authorities stormed into Crystal Munoz’s home in 2007, she was three months pregnant and terrified. Already caring for a 4-month-old, the Native American mother was arrested on drug conspiracy charges and taken into custody. Authorities then told her a map she’d drawn on notebook paper — depicting a road in a Texas national park — had been used to evade a checkpoint in a marijuana trafficking operation. Suspects previously arrested had the map in their possession when they were caught.
Munoz was stunned.
The map, she insisted, had been drawn as a favor, one she thought was aimed at helping sort out a ranch dispute about money. But during her trial, the suspects — who her attorneys say made her the scapegoat — claimed otherwise. After delivering her second daughter in prison, Munoz was handed her sentence: 16 years.
After nine years behind bars, her husband Ricky launched a Change.org petition calling on the government to grant her clemency. “I’ve been raising our two girls from that day forward, and it hasn’t been easy,” Ricky writes. “When I see them cry for their mom, it breaks my heart.” As of this week, the petition has 81,000 signatures toward its 150,000 goal.
While her husband and two daughters — now 11 and 10 — dream of reuniting with Munoz, she is doing the same. “If I lay down to sleep, I’m dreaming of your sleepy faces,” she writes in a letter to them she shared with Yahoo Lifestyle. “When I wake up in the morning … I am picturing you.”
As a mother locked away from her kids, she’s far from alone. According to an April 2018 report from Public Radio International (PRI), there are now more women serving prison time than ever before — the majority of whom are mothers. Of the 2.3 million individuals serving time in the U.S., according to Pew, more than 1.2 million are parents of children under the age of 18.
Studies have shown that removing mothers from their children is not only traumatic but also a precursor to a host of psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. In recent years, researchers have found evidence that maintaining connections with incarcerated parents can help lessen some of these effects.
Since Munoz can’t be with her daughters on Mother’s Day, she wrote them a letter. She hopes that by sharing her experience with Yahoo Lifestyle readers, she can help shed light on the reality of being an incarcerated mother, particularly on Mother’s Day. Her letter, in full, is below. Munoz, currently 11 years into her term, is serving at a federal facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Dearest most precious daughters of mine: You are so valuable.
I want the both of you to know how much you have gladdened my heart and brought joy to my life. I pray that you would know how much you are LOVED by me, and how much I desire and long to care for you and be their (sic) for you in time’s of distress or whenever you cry—to hold and console you.
Each moment that passes you remain in my heart and on my mind. If I lay down to sleep, I’m dreaming of your sleepy faces. When I wake up in the morning…I am picturing you waking up. I look forward to the days when I can take care of you…cook you meals, fix your hair, dress up together. If I could be anywhere in this whole wide world, I would be with you—wherever you are
I can hardly wait until we can go on new adventures and try new things together. Some things that I would absolutely LOVE to do together include: dance classes (all types of dance), piano classes, kick boxing, karate and/or Martial Arts, hiking, river rafting.
What are some things you would like to try? You are my beautiful princesses and my bright shining stars—the two of you bring me so much happiness and I am proud to be your Momma!
I love you both with all my heart.
Forever and always,
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- My mother was a supermom—but I didn’t get it until having kids of my own
- This ‘bad mom’ is shutting down her mommy shamers
- My mom lost custody of me. How becoming a sex worker helped me understand why