Extending a second chance can impact families for generations.
Nearly 1.5 million children have a parent in prison. These children contain the God-given spark inherent in all human beings: the potential to grow into healthy, productive adults using their unique gifts to contribute to the communities in which they live. And yet, through no fault of their own, many struggle to flourish.
Children with incarcerated parents face challenges that threaten their potential, from poverty to racism to family instability. Circumstances like these can lead to adverse outcomes. Research shows that youth who have a parent in prison were three times more likely to be incarcerated themselves.
The topic of incarceration can carry shame and guilt. Yet, we have seen how supporting families of prisoners and returning citizens can change things. Extending a second chance to someone with a criminal record can impact families for generations.
Through our Prison Fellowship Angel Tree™ program, we help strengthen relationships between incarcerated parents and their children. We empower churches to enfold families of the incarcerated into church life. And we are building the Opportunity Kids Collaborative, a network of churches, faith and community-based organizations, and corporations focused on preventing children who have an incarcerated parent from becoming incarcerated themselves.
No one can replace a parent in the life of a child. Healthy parent-child bonds are paramount to the thriving of individuals, families, and communities. Although behind bars, incarcerated parents can still advocate for positive influences in their children's lives. Families that maintain connections throughout a prisoner's sentence also allows for a smoother transition back into society upon the prisoner's release.
In November 2021, Prison Fellowship® and the Walmart Center for Racial Equality launched the Opportunity Kids Collaborative.
"Prison Fellowship is uniquely positioned to partner with local churches, corporations, and other organizations who want to come alongside struggling families and children to provide support, encouragement, and connection."
Natika Washington, vice president of corporate partnerships of Prison Fellowship
HOMES AND FAMILIES
Each year, Prison Fellowship leads Second Chance® Month, a nationwide campaign focused on unlocking second chances for the tens of millions of Americans with a criminal record. We partner with more than 700 organizations, congregations, and businesses to open brighter futures for returning citizens.
Throughout April, we are participating in weekly Twitter chats with some of our partners to discuss the issues that returning citizens face.
On April 20, Second Chance® Month partners gathered on Twitter to discuss the impact of second chances on families. Here is what they had to say.
Nearly 1.5 million children have a parent in prison. Prison Fellowshp's Angel Tree connects incarcerated parents to their children and families throughout the year. How does maintaining family connection during incarceration help with a smoother reentry experience?
A2: Family contact improves mental health for the person who is incarcerated and their family members, reduces prison misconduct and recidivism for the person who is incarcerated, and strengthens family ties after release. #SecondChanceMonth https://t.co/tYfM76gNY4
— CSG Justice Center (@CSGJC) April 20, 2022
In Nov. 2021, Prison Fellowshp and Walmart launched the Opportunity Kids Collaborative. This nationwide movement is geared towards reframing the label "at-risk youth" to opportunity kids. Why is language important when empowering children of incarcerated parents?
A3. Words shape how people think, so language can both humanize and stigmatize. People impacted by the criminal legal system should not be defined by that experience. @MECorrections launched a campaign that focuses on advancing person-first language. #SecondChanceMonth
— Vera Institute of Justice (@verainstitute) April 20, 2022
The topic of incarceration can carry shame and guilt for many family members. How can we support families impacted by crime and incarceration?
A4. The dehumanizing media narratives that misunderstand harm, violence, and healing only compound the difficulties faced by incarcerated families and shame them. We urge journalists writing about crime to reflect on this and adapt. #SecondChanceMonth https://t.co/Jx3EeOEMU9
— Arnold Ventures (@Arnold_Ventures) April 20, 2022
Although housing access is widely recognized as a key to stability and success, people with a criminal record face widespread barriers to safe, inexpensive housing. How can local governments or private landlords safely make housing more accessible?
A7: Housing access is an issue of equity and human dignity, especially for minorities. As we observe #SecondChanceMonth and #FairHousingMonth, we welcome @SecFudge’s directive to staff on eliminating barriers to housing access for our returning neighbors.
— Catholic Charities USA (@CCharitiesUSA) April 20, 2022
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Join us Wednesdays at 1 p.m. EDT on Twitter as we discuss how to unlock second chances for returning citizens.
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