If you have an interest in assisting the families of prisoners, then the following two articles may help point you toward your next step. The first piece provides updated trends on the problems incarceration inflicts on families and the second is a tool to help children deal with the fallout of separation.
Number of Incarcerated Parents Grows
A report from The Sentencing Project highlights the need for family programs, as the number of incarcerated parents continues to rise.
The report, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children: Trends, 1991-2007, finds that, in 2007, 1.7 million children had a parent in prison, up from the 936,000 in 1991, an increase of 82 percent.
The report recommends the following policy responses:
- Support parent-child relationship through programs, such as the Bedford Hills, NY women’s prison, where newborn babies can live [and bond] with their mothers for a period of time.
- Revise legislation (e.g., the ban on the receipt of welfare and food stamps for persons with drug convictions), which impedes successful reentry and the uniting of parents with children.
- Reconsider lengthy sentencing policies that are overly punitive and contribute to greater separation between parents and children.
The report also cites distance as a separating factor. Almost two-thirds of the parents in state prisons are more than 100 miles from home. As a result, frequent visits are rare, and half of the parents have no visits at all.
Color Me Blue…Yellow… Red…Green…Purple
A 17-page coloring book, called A Boy Named Rocky, is a new tool for exploring loss in the young children of incarcerated parents and for maintaining family cohesiveness during times of separation.
The coloring book tells the story of Rocky, who was abandoned at an early age by his father. Rocky comes home from school one day and learns that his mother has been sent to state jail for two years on a drug conviction.
Rocky grows angry and begins to have trouble in school. His school counselor helps him deal with the situation.
At the end of the coloring book is a letter from Rocky’s mother and a page for him to write her a letter. The ending encourages children to correspond with their parents.