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What One Former Inmate's DIY Candy Flowers Can Teach Us About the American Prison System

Plus: How to make "magical" roses out of Jolly Ranchers.
(Screenshot: Mitú/YouTube)

(Screenshot: Mitú/YouTube)

If you're still searching for some stocking stuffers this holiday season, might we suggest some easy-to-make, hand-crafted candy roses? Let Scar, a former inmate/flower enthusiast, show you the rose-making technique (narration NSFW):

The video is captivating, and not just for the risqué jokes. There's something so endearing about the humor overlaid with Scar's messages about love and family. "When I was busted for a long time, I was waiting for my family," he says. "You know, I had to show them that I still love them. I didn't forget about them." Scar sent his family the roses as gifts. "There's so much craft that goes on in prison," he told We Are Mitú. "It's like a Martha Stewart convention."

Scar's comments hint at a larger issue Pacific Standard has reported on previously: the difficulty families face in staying close and connected with a member who's behind bars. Aside from short visiting hours, the American prison system is set up in a way that makes many families unable to afford the phone calls and travel required to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved one.

In October, we talked with Darris Young, who was in prison for 17 years and is now a researcher for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a group that advocates for reductions in the imprisonment of Americans of color. In a part of the interview we didn't publish in October, we asked Young whether he was able to keep in touch with his family while he was incarcerated. Here's what he told us:

No. No, I would go weeks, sometimes months, without being able to make a phone call with my family.

A substantial number of our nation's prisons—state and federal—are built in the most rural parts of the country. Most of our people that are incarcerated are African Americans and Latino men and women that come from the poor inner cities, then they're shipped out to these rural communities to be imprisoned. My first stop was, like, 400, 500 miles away from my family. So during my first seven years of incarceration, I saw my family twice because of the distance that they had to travel.

What can an incarcerated father, wife, niece, or son do to maintain family ties under such circumstances? Little gifts—like Scar's flowers—probably help. And it's important that inmates try to foster these familial relationships: Research shows that people are less likely to re-offend if they stay close with their loved ones during their stay behind bars.