As a mother in prison, Elizabeth Holmes faces an agonizing separation from son

Martha Ross, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

"As my daughter got older, she didn't really like to come because certain guards would give (visitors) a hard time," said Metz, describing the "dark cloud" of a prison visiting room. She had to undergo a strip search just before before the visits, and guards might intervene if they "see you and your children playing and having too much fun."

Holmes also can expect to endure strip searches, prison visit atmosphere and long lines for a pay phone to call home. But as James said, "You can't mother from a pay phone." The BOP offers two residential programs for mothers and their babies, but it's only for women who have just given birth and for a limited number of months.

As a non-violent offender, it's possible that Holmes could end up in Dublin's minimum-security satellite camp because the BOP tries to house prisoners within 500 miles of home, said Holli Coulman, who served time in federal prison.

Under the very best of circumstances, Holmes might be able to see her son several hours once or twice a week, Coulman said. However, that's not the situation right now, when outbreaks of COVID-19 have forced Dublin and other federal prisons to suspend visits indefinitely.

In other ways, Holmes' affluence gives her advantages that are unknown to the vast majority of incarcerated mothers. Many are women of color whose poverty or abusive backgrounds led them to become "entangled in the criminal justice system," James said. They are typically locked up upon arrest, unlike Holmes and other well-heeled defendants, who can post bond or pay attorneys to argue they are not flight risks. Holmes has reportedly been living with her partner, Billy Evans, and their son .


It's likely that Holmes will be be able to remain free until after her sentencing, which is expected to take place after Labor Day, said . She'll also be given a date to report to prison, allowing her to spend more time with her baby and get her affairs in order. With Holmes' attorneys likely to appeal her conviction, she could also be free pending her appeal, delaying her incarceration another year or so, added former Santa Clara County prosecutor .

But if or when Holmes goes to prison, her family probably won't struggle nearly as much as other women to see her child for weekend visits. James, who came from a relatively affluent Black family, said her husband was able make the six-hour, round-trip drive every weekend so that she could see her son and 12-year-old daughter. Her parents also helped. "I didn't have to worry where my children were going to be, if my children were going to be taken care of," she said.

That wasn't the experience of other mothers James met in prison. "Some were lucky to even know who has their children," she said. Others had children thousands of miles away, living with relatives who couldn't afford to bring the children to see their mothers. More horrifically, some mothers lost custody and all communications with children who had to go into foster care and were eventually adopted out.

A mother James met her first week in prison offered stark advice for surviving two years without her children, saying she had to "forget" them and "put them on the shelf." James said: "What kind of country does that does that to mothers and children?"

©#YR@ MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.