To Love a Criminal: How do families cope?

NBC25's Brittany Shannon takes an in-depth look at families of convicted criminals and how they cope with the separation.

14-year-old Constance Choate makes her daily walk home from school,carrying with her a heavy burden.

"Trouble in school, fighting throwing stuff at people because she won't talk about it she just hold her anger and her hurt all inside", says Constance's grandmother Glenda Holtz.

Hurt caused by a lifetime of disappointment. Her mother, Heather Holtz, in and out of jail for drugs and alcohol since Constance was a baby.

"Is there any fond memory you have?", askes NBC25's Brittany Shannon. "Ummmm, No", says Constance

The 14 year old does keep a box of handwritten letters, dozens of them, all from her mother containing empty promises.

Constance says,"They mostly say the same thing, that she hopes to get out very soon and she wants to spend time with me and hopes that I come see her"

Meanwhile, just across town, six-year-old Brookly and her two year old sister Brianna play quietly, pretending.

"Who was on the phone???....Mama" ask the kids.

Their mother, Amy Stebbins, is in a women's corrections facility. Brooklyn and Brianna live with their grandmother, Becky, who provides love and safety to children who've known anything but

"She's been through more than I'll ever go through in my whole life and she's just six" says Brookly's grandmother Becky Roberts.

Feelings of anger, sadness, and shame.

Brooklyn says "One day they were talking about who they love and miss and I just started crying because I missed my mom"

Her grandmother Becky adds, "She acts out, she gets very angry, she acts out and throws herself on the floor"

According to research seven out of ten people who have been incarcerated will be back in jail or prison within three years, further affecting these families. But thanks to organizations and non profits the recidivism rate is going down and they're having a huge impact on these familiesâ?¦

One such organization is led by Larry Gudith, a former NFL player, who spent a year in jail. Now, through Lifeline Prison Ministries, he works to re-connect families separated by grey cement walls through therapy with inmates and their families, mentoring, and bible-based teachings. The success stories are overwhelming.

"Forgive me but tears of joy are streaming down my cheeks. You see last Friday the guard came to my cell and said Brown you have a visit. Larry I haven't had a visit in four years as I entered a visiting room there was my beautiful wife and my daughters they ran to me with tears in their eyes and said "Daddy we love you please be our Daddy again", We forgive you", said Gudith reading from a letter.

Similar stories reflect the family-focused mission of Lifeline Ministries. Inmates who go through the program are 20 percent less likely to return to jail. The program also provides opportunities for incarcerated parents to meet with their children.

Gudith says, "Make them feel worthy. Make them feel proud that hey I'm your dad. I might be incarcerated but I'm still proud of you"

Despite their own hardships, these families although separated by the cold walls of an empty cells, hope one day those walls and the ones they've built will come crashing down.

For more information on Lifeline Mministries you can visit their website.