Incarcerated Parents and Their Children


The Gotham Gazette, in a terrific article, looks at the thousands of city kids who have parents in prison. GG asks, “can their bonds survive the separation and stigma?” It’s the latest in GG’s poverty series that examines efforts to keep those families connected.

“Mass incarceration has played a huge role in the economic, social and psychological destabilization of many urban youngsters, families and communities of color. Unfortunately, no one began to substantially address the dramatic impact that mass incarceration has had on this segment of our population until 10 or 15 years ago — after decades of damage had already been done,”

— Ann Jacobs, director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College

The article carefully examines the burden of incarceration on children, how those children cope with an absent parents, parenting from prison, the economic strain on families, and being an incarcerated parent.

One adolescent girl said that she had mixed emotions about seeing her father in prison and had stopped visiting him. She relented after he started calling her and wanting to see her again.

“When I was a kid I use to love going to see my father, and I would be excited. But the hardest part would have to be me leaving. I hated when I had to leave there was a certain point in time when I didn’t want to go see him.”

Groups, such as the Osbourne Association have been instrumental in helping children to cope with a parent lost to incarceration. The Osbourne Association also runs a parenting course for incarcerated fathers at the “Sing Sing” Correctional Facility in upstate Ossinging, New York.

The article concludes with the thoughts of one of its program graduates, who wrote

“A father in prison is better than no father at all. It is better for a child to be loved, though distance separates the father and the child, than to believe that he or she is not loved at all.”

I have no doubt that a lot of incarcerated men and their children share that sentiment.  In the comments section, I take an exception with Ms. Jacobs contention that the savings achieved from fewer incarcerated people and prison closures has not resulted in more government-funded programs for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons. I replied that the, “…”dividends” from prison closures will be sucked up [by] deficit reduction payments. The idea is to shrink state spending, not increase it, notwithstanding the laudable goal of assisting incarcerated parents and their children.

Read the complete article here.

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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