Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs

parents in prison
photo source:

Source: Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs

Through no fault of their own, millions of children have been exposed to and affected by the criminal justice system by witnessing their parent being arrested, by seeing their parent in court, or by visiting their parent in jail or prison. Indeed, many of the thousands of adult men and women who are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated each year leave behind minor children who must grapple with their parent’s absence for days, months, or years. Although such exposure does not always result in negative outcomes for children, the extant research does suggest that parental involvement in the criminal justice system can put children at risk of residential instability, economic strain and financial hardship, mental health problems, poor academic performance, and antisocial and delinquent behavior. Parental involvement in the system can be traumatic for children and can hinder the quality of the relationship they have with their parent … This toolkit and the strategies and experiences described herein are intended for people who are interested in developing family-focused jail programs in their own jurisdictions, such as jail practitioners and community-based organizations working with jail administrators and jail detainees” (p. 1). Sections cover: family-focused jail programs; Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights; considerations for developing a comprehensive family-focused jail program—identify goals, ensure that the process is collaborative, determine what components should be in the program (parenting classes, coached phone calls, contact visits, and others), and implement the program (program structure and sequence, eligibility, and staff training); challenges and lessons learned (have adequate and appropriate space for the various program components, strike a balance between having fun and providing a service, minimize the trauma associated with visiting a parent in jail, account for high population turnover in jails, and secure adequate, sustainable funding); and conclusion.

Go to the link at the top to read the rest of the article.

There is not enough consideration given to the children of inmates and how our broken system effects them.  I have recently dedicated other posts to the children.  I know, through my grandson, who is only 9 1/2 years old that not having his father and trying to understand this will affect him for the rest of his life. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

What About The Children of Incarcerated Parents?

Jamie’s son, Jamie Jr.

“That’s a pretty big job, mom, can I get paid?” nine year old Jamie asked his mother.

She decided that $2.00 would be a fair amount, but she was curious what he wanted the money for.

“How much would it cost for my dad to buy a soda in prison?” Jamie asked. “I want to send the money to him for Christmas.”

My daughter told me this over the phone the other day. It made me smile that my grandson was thinking about his dad. Jamie also asked her, “How much money would it take to get my dad out of prison?” He told her he wanted to start saving his money to help.

There was no point in dashing his efforts and telling him he couldn’t do that.  He wanted to do something to help.  The biggest thing it was going to do was lift his father’s spirits, knowing his son was thinking abut him.  One of his fears is that his son won’t want him to be his father because he left him for so long.

What a Christmas present this will be, for Jamie to know, not only that his son was thinking about him, but that he was missing him in his life so much that he wanted to help get him out. I can see the smile on his face when he gets my letter. I can’t think of a better Christmas present.

Whenever I talk to my grandson I tell him about his dad and about how much I love him and how much his dad loves him. I tell him he is the most important person in his dad’s life and he misses him very much.

I ask my daughter for any little thing going on in my grandson’s life that I can pass on to Jamie. I fight to keep the connection there. For both of them to get through these years, they need to be constantly told how much they love each other.

For big Jamie, it is his anchor in the real world; the one thing of value he has done that is waiting for him to get out with open arms. For his son, it is finally having his father.

Karma repeats itself. When you look closely at your life you can find the patterns. Jamie, the father is the third oldest of 4 children. Each child has a different father. He was the only one who never knew his father so he was the only one who never was even allowed a relationship with a man he could call dad.  What a hole that creates in a life. He still has no idea who his father is.

On his last birthday, Jan 10th, his mother went to visit him. He was so happy she came bescause she visits so seldom. She told him she remarried – to his father! That made him very happy. He had a father! She told a story about who his dad was and why he wasn’t there when he was growing up. She said he was a cop and he didn’t tell her he was already married. She said she ended the relationship. She told me this, too,  when I talked to her on the phone when I was trying to get her to go visit Jamie.  She told him the same story. He wrote to his “father” more than once at his mother’s address and waited and waited to hear from him. Jamie wrote to me and said he didn’t understand why his father never wrote back. He even sent him a birthday card. Why didn’t he write back? He was disappointed.  But there was a reason why he never heard from him – his mother lied. There was no father – or marriage. He didn’t exist. How could she do that?

My daughter is pretty sure Jamie’s dad is in prison.  She met a man at Jamie’s mother’s apartment years back who had just gotten out of prison, who is now back inside.  She said he was the spitting image of Jamie, so maybe that is  another piece of the karma of why he had no father.

Cause and effect. It’s some pretty strong stuff. I hope, for my grandson’s sake, that he doesn’t have to learn the same lessons.

There are so many children who have one of their parents locked up.  The US incarcerates people for many years longer than the crime dictates, so the prison industrial complex that run the prisons have the opportunity to make more money. This affects  more people than the person locked up. The children don’t understand, and often get bullied by other children who make their lives hard because they have a parent in prison.  Is it necessary to lock people up for so long?  People think of those incarcerated as murderers and rapists. Even though there are people locked up for that reason, the majority of the people are not. Other countries don’t lock up people for the length of time we do in the United States. That is because this country looks at inmates as a way to make money, no matter the other lives it destroys and no matter how many children are affected by losing their parent.

Here is the karma. His son Jamie is the third oldest of four children and each child also has a different father. He is the only one who hasn’t been able to know his father. He has seen him a few times but there has been plexi-glass between them. Not once has Jamie and his son ever been able to touch. If you have children can you imagine what that would do to you to never be able to touch them or hold them in your arms.

My grandson is but one of millions of kids and grand kids who are affected by having a parent in prison. When the sentences are absurdly long, beyond necessity, it ruins more lives than just one. Children don’t have the capacity to understand why they are gone, they only know there is a hole in their life where a father or mother should be. 

I wrote a piece of music called, “For The Children”   When I recorded a piece of music in the past I added a media player so you can hear it.  Instead, my music is now in new location.  Please go there to hear it.  My other recordings are there are well. I can keep track of my stats this way so anytime you also like, share or comment, it helps me, especially when others find my music.  People listen to what other people have listened to, so any time you do any of these things you help me. Thank you.

As an added note, the music, Life Interrupted, was recorded for my niece, who just recently passed away unexpectedly, the day before her 43rd birthday.  She wasn’t sick.  It was just her time. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world