Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Oct 04, 2023

MOTHerview with Storyteller Eva Santiago

by The Moth

Eva Santiago

Edited by Suzanne Rust

“There are many beautiful people in prison who deserve a second chance.”

Eva Santigo is an advocate for families affected by the Child Welfare System and for youth impacted by the Criminal Justice System. Realizing that mental health is rarely addressed or accessible to families affected by the Criminal Justice System, she promotes Functional Family Therapy, which helps them cope.

Her fight to help free her husband Christopher often takes her to Albany to advocate for various bills, such as the Clemency Justice Act, Elder Parole, Fair & Timely, Clean Slate, and Youth Interrogation (Right to Remain Silent).

We wanted to hear a little bit more about Eva and her story.

How is Christopher doing? Are there any updates on his case?

Christopher is doing as well as he can be. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree this past June. As I work on trying to help Christopher get out of prison, I’m getting support from: Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), Release the Aging People in Prison (RAPP), and Steve Ziedman from CUNY LAW.

What do you love most about Christoper?

There are many reasons why I love Christopher, but if I had to pick two, I would say his sense of humor and his drive to be an overachiever.

How has being with him changed you? And how do you think you've changed him?

Being with him has made me realize that a strong marriage takes a lot of work, but the outcome is worth it. I think that for him, it is knowing that the person who loves him is fighting for his freedom.

What was it like standing on that stage and sharing your story?

It was nerve-racking. I don't like being the center of attention, especially on stage. I know that it’s important that our story is told. There’re so many biases about being married to someone who's incarcerated. It’s always negative and filled with drama. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, but I’m around so many strong women who are faithful and loving and work so hard to get their husbands home. I also know that a lot of these husbands are equally committed.

What do you envision for your future with Christopher? What are your dreams for the two of you?

Christopher and I both have mentored, advocated, and provided support to people affected by the Criminal Justice System. Whether that’s him providing that on the inside or me providing that on the outside. I would like for us to continue to provide support for the community, wherever we reside.

What do you want everyone to understand about people who are in the prison system?

I want people to know that it only takes a poor decision to be incarcerated. Any one of us could be in the same situation under certain circumstances. I also want people to understand that some people who have been incarcerated for years grow, mature, self-reflect, and change. Many are good people, who are very intelligent and driven to excel, even under their harsh circumstances. There are many beautiful people in prison who deserve a second chance.