CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The worst part of Patrick Cannon's punishment is the separation from family. Tuesday, he checked himself into a federal prison in West Virginia to begin his sentence for taking bribes while in office.
For Cannon, who devoted half his life to public service and holding an elected office, it was a hard fall from grace. During the sentencing phase of his federal trial Cannon asked Judge Frank Whitney for mercy, mostly he said, because his children need their father.
Judge Whitney said Cannon brought the separation upon himself. However, his kids will pay the price, too.
They are among the estimated 5,000 children in Mecklenburg County with an incarcerated parent.
Life for them will be different these next years while their father serves his sentence. By all accounts, Cannon is an involved dad. He's often spotted at track meets and ball games supporting his children.
There are programs in place to help his children fill the void. Sandra Willoughby is the program director for Families Doing Time, which helps children of incarcerated parents adjust and adapt.
She said in some ways, the Cannon kids are different. "They have a lot of people in their lives who will continue to support them, and that's critical for anyone their age," said Willoughby. They've also had time to prepare for the separation.
She said it's still a traumatic time for them and for all children dealing with the loss of a parent, though temporary. She recommends friends, neighbors and members of the community treat the children like anyone else dealing with grief.
She said it's also important to prepare the children for change. When children visit a parent in prison or jail, the loved one can look different and be bound by prison rules.
At FCI Morgantown, the prison handbook says only one hug and one kiss are allowed at the beginning of visitation and at the end.