Monday, February 28, 2011

When Mama is in prison

Over 2 million children have a parent behind bars.
As the population in U.S. prisons grows, so too does the number of children with incarcerated parents.  Over 2 million children have a parent behind bars. Three quarters of all incarcerated women are mothers. In the last 20 years, the number of children with a father in prison has increased by over 75%.*

The average age of children with an incarcerated parent is eight years old; 22 percent of the children are under the age of five.*

...Parental incarceration can expose children to a multitude of risk factors. These include material hardship and internalized feelings of fear, shame, and grief. Children of incarcerated parents often have difficulty controlling aggressive, self-destructive, and disruptive behaviors.
For the most part, we've found the incarcerated parent (often locked up for non-violent, poverty related crimes, or not guilty but with inadequate legal defense) wants to be empowered to care for their children, even behind bars.

Many times kids get farmed out while the custodial parent is in jail, often losing connection to their neighborhood, and unnecessarily to their school.

The correctional system in its current form fails to acknowledge the needs of the children of those it incarcerates. Parents are regularly sent to prisons far away from their homes, making family visits difficult if not impossible. Prison visiting rooms are typically uninviting for children, and many prisoners are not allowed to have contact visits - children are not able to hug, kiss, or hold the hand of their parents. Further, most states provide little to no resources for children upon the incarceration of their parents.

It is imperative, for the good of both the families whom incarceration directly impacts as well as the communities from whence they come, that policy makers seek to address these issues now.*

At Hope Aglow, we pray with mothers and encourage them to stay in touch with their children with letter writing and especially prayer.  Imagine if you were a young girl and your mother was locked up. It's frightening and very difficult for the children, who cannot fully understand.

Please pray for these kids, and all the parents in jail.

2* Wendy Jason-Support  for Children of Incarcerated Parents
3 * Children of incarcerated parents fact-sheet

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