Monday, September 29, 2008

Promoting familiy ties behind bars

Children of incarcerated parents tend to rebel and act out because of their parent's absence and are 5-7 times more likely than their peers to end up incarcerated themselves, so I was encouraged to learn of this program in a Missouri women's prison aimed at encouraging mothers behind bars to spend quality time with their children. Reported USA Today ("MO program fosters family ties behind bars," Sept. 25):
The crayons, construction paper and toddlers scattered on the floor suggest a typical daycare center or kindergarten classroom. The armed guards and surveillance cameras reveal a painful reality.

The handful of inmates gathered for the monthly program at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center include some of the state's most notorious female convicted murderers.

But their crimes don't prevent the women's loved ones from calling them Mommy and Grandma, or from needing a hug or words of encouragement. And while the inmates do time, their children and grandchildren often struggle with feelings of anger, resentment and betrayal.

University of Missouri outreach workers started the family support program in 1999 at the state's maximum security prison in Potosi. Known as the Living Interactive Family Education program, or 4-H LIFE, is now offered in Potosi, Vandalia and the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City.

"There are many education programs for incarcerated parents," said program director Tammy Gillespie. "But not a whole lot that work with the entire family."

More than 1.7 million children in this country have a parent in prison, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. And more than half of the estimated 1.5 million inmates in U.S. prisons last year were themselves parents.

From a loss of custody to emotional damage and financial hardship, those fractured families face challenges even after the missing parent is released, Gillespie noted. The inmate education program is designed to strengthen family bonds while also teaching the parenting skills necessary to survive in the outside world.

"We're not just an activity to keep people busy," she said. "We're trying to build skills that will last a lifetime."

"They get to practice their parenting skills in a safe environment," Gillespie added. "And they get a chance to show their family and their children that they're trying to do better."


Sandra said...

As a wife of an incarcerated man I can attest that conjugal visitation would go miles toward keeping our relationship healthy and on track. My husband made a mistake and it does not define who is. He is so much more than "the felon doing his time". As it is, I drive 3 1/2 hours only to sit across from him at a table with my arms and back aching. I long to just sit beside him and hold him for awhile. I long to cook for him, but Texas doesn't allow us to bring our loved ones items that we've made for them. Sex is like food, water, air and it's a shame that we the family members suffer the hatred of the state by disallowing conjugal visitation. I feel we as a state of caring conscious people should encourage the legislative session to begin to discuss a more family positive environment including extended private contact whether that includes sex or not.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, sex is not like food, water, and air.

"suffer the hatred of the state by disallowing conjugal visitation."

Oh please. You are suffering the stupidity of your husband.

Anonymous said...

And 8:45, you're suffering from a deficit of compassion.

Anonymous said...

I am a parent who has been to prison and a parent of a child who went to prison wrongly. In truth, Sandra, you are the wife who is suffering because your husband did something wrong. Buth truth be told, he was out of the house before going to prison. I do understand your loyalty and I do understand your need and the need to support and love him. But trust me, I have been on both sides of the bars, both sides of the law, both sides of loving in and out of prison....take care of YOU...TRUST IN GOD and LOVE YOURSELF. Your husband must realize what he has IN YOU..NOT YOU IN HIM. However, 9/29/2008 08:45:00 PM you don't understand anything and your lack of compassion or even an understanding word is absolutely sad. My son went to prison, incorrectly and the case overturned. I went to prison for "stupidity" and yet all I found was those that haven't been convicted...are the one's doing the worst crimes. I found those loving and supporting those in prison, " a place is given to you in Heaven" and for the wives I saw crying based on the "stupidity" of their "husbands"...I saw strong convictions to serve to the vows given. However, a prison system should support family ties...regardless...because to make quality people...takes time and constant encouragment. And sometimes that is found, along with God, in prison. Jesus went to prison, the apostles went to prison, "let he without sin cast the first stone." So, 09/29/2008 08:45:00 PM I guess you are without sin and you have plenty stones. But for me, as a parent and as someone convicted by the State of Texas,,,,that doesn't make me who I am...and it doesn't mean the state did the right thing. If that is the case, maybe I wouldn't have walked out with a son right? Remember, a conviction doesn't mean its that means it may have been the states error (as with my son) or the error of the person...a little kindness a hell of lot more "ties" would help millions.

Anonymous said...

To 08:45 PM who are you angry with? Your attitude needs to readjusted and your bad attitude speaks out how very unhappy you truly are.

God loves all of us and does not like the pain and suffering His children endure and the loneliness children suffer while a parent or grandparent remains imprisioned either guilty or not guilty and honestly, a lot of those behind bars are not guilty. They are there due to the selfish acts of Prosecutors and Judges who only want to win cases and the Judge who gives the Charge to the Jury should make this Charge part of the transcript. The Charge to the Jury is in a great deal of situations not done in an unbiased manner, therefore should be part of the transcript.

I would suggest you look around you and see what in your life is making you have such a miserable attitude.


Anonymous said...

I am the adoptive parent of two children through DFPS. It was a closed adoption, but because of the age of the oldest child and birth of additional siblings, we have re-established contact with birth family, which has meant more than one jail visit.

We've spent hours standing in line outstide Dawson State Jail(in Dallas), once in extreme heat and once in cold, with lots of other small children and virtually no protection from the sun or cold wind. While the staff were generally polite, or at least civil, we were herded through like cattle. It is an unpleasant experience.

Even I, someone with no real connection to an inmate and who was there out of kindness and concern, felt like some sort of criminal 'by asociation' who was also being punished.

I cannot believe that inconsiderate treatment of family members, especially chilren, helps any of them develop any regard for the law or the justice system.