Like the rest of the world, I find Orange Is the New Black (both the Netflix series and the book) to be a fascinating, eye-opening portrayal of life inside the prison system. And in the absolute smallest of ways — having had the opportunity to visit and meet with inmates at a maximum security prison as part of a criminal justice class during my senior year of high school — I've had the tiniest firsthand peek into it myself. Of course, that is nothing compared to what thousands of families deal with every day; families who are separated by prisons. And Real Housewives of New Jersey's Gia Giudice is giving a voice to them all.
In the midst of Teresa and Joe Giudice’s prison sentences (Teresa ends her 15-month sentence early, just before Christmas; Joe will serve 41 months starting in January 2016), their eldest daughter Gia is speaking out about her parents' jail time. The 14-year-old Real Housewives of New Jersey star stays strong during her recent interview with Entertainment Tonight, even when viewing a clip of herself breaking down while she speaks to her mom.
"Anything can happen to any family, and it could be worse," she said, echoing how her parents have taught her to stay strong. "At least no one's sick. That's honestly how I think of it. They're coming home. My mom's coming home. My dad's going to come home. Knock on wood, no one's sick, no one's dying."
Though the 14-year-old seems to have great perspective on the situation — as mature of a handle as any teenager can deal with the prospect of her parents being in jail, tbh — she does reveal that the part that got her choked up was hearing her mom's voice.
"When I heard her voice, that's when I got upset," Giudice revealed of the emotional phone call. "'Cause I wish that she was here."
It's a sentiment that I am sure many children whose parents are in jail feel deeply. In the clip from the show — and even in the clip from the Entertainment Tonight special — Giudice's interview is an important reminder that for these kids, a parent or a loved one being in prison is immensely difficult. Not that I would defend Teresa or Joe's actions in any way — their decisions to commit multiple types of fraud is inexcusable. But it is extremely upsetting that their children (the Giudices are also parents to young daughters Milania and Audriana) have to watch their parents are being wrenched away from them. And the Giudices are fairly fortunate in that they can visit Teresa almost every weekend, as the Danbury Correctional Facility is just a few hours from their New Jersey home. Many families do not have that opportunity.
Still, the separation is difficult on the younger daughters too, Joe pointed out: "Whenever we get there, Milania is just like, 'Mommy why can’t you just come home? Why don't you just get up and leave?' And Teresa is like, 'Soon, baby, soon.' Audriana doesn't really say much about it but she cries sometimes."
Though the girls will be able to be with both of their parents just in time for the holidays, they will once again be separated, once the Giudice family patriarch serves his sentence.
"When my mom comes home, it's not even something to prepare for. I'm just so happy for that to happen," Gia said. "It's going to be good to have it back to normal for a couple months, but then when my dad leaves, it's just going to be the same thing all over again."