A recent Maryland policy is making it even harder than it already is to parent from behind bars.
Starting this past November, visitors (adults and children alike) were banned from embracing their incarcerated loved ones at the beginning and during visitations (visitors are allowed a brief hug at the very end of a visit). The policy was instituted by the state’s department of corrections to reduce the risk that contraband would be passed between visitors and prisoners during visitation. According to one spokesman, more than 800 incidents were reported statewide over a two-year period.
While the new rule makes sense from a security perspective, it doesn’t seem to treat the human dynamic very delicately. At least, it doesn’t seem to give much weight to the impact on children.
“Inmates and adult visitors detest this rule, but at least they understand its restrictions. Small children can’t,” writes Kimberly Hricko, a Maryland prisoner and grandmother. “One look at the expression on their little faces reveals what they must be thinking: First she left me. Now she won’t hug me. Doesn’t Mommy love me anymore?”
Studies and common sense have shown that children who have regular contact and physical touch with their parents, even those who live in prison with the parents, do much better in life than those who don’t.
“Cracking down on contraband, though, shouldn’t require that family bonds become collateral damage,” adds Hricko.
Could there be a better way to cut down on security concerns than limiting family contact and putting already at-risk children at greater risk?