In 2003, the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership distilled 8 rights from children’s experiences that would ensure their safety and well-being, with clear objectives of a policy reform framework. The rights were published and quickly became the guide for policy-makers and practitioners concerned about these children. These distinctive rights are not copyrighted, and are available to all who are seeking improvements in the lives of the children, a beautiful gift for us all. Thank you to SFCIPP from all of us.
Between 2006 – 2007 NRCCFI at FCN hosted the Bill of Rights Project of Soros Fellow, Dee Ann Newell, providing resources and support to her technical assistance project with 14 states selected to collaborate and pursue improvement in policies and practices affecting children of prisoners and their families. The three-year project produced both macro and micro changes within the states or regions receiving her TA.
The Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents Technical Assistance Project- Contextual Factors. Click here to read this paper by Susan D. Phillips, Ph.D., addressing contextual factors of this project including differences in rates of prison expansion, prison population size and rate of incarceration, rate of parental incarceration and indicators of child well-being.
For more information regarding the Bill of Rights Project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the Bill of Rights for Children of the Incarcerated?
What was the Bill of Rights Technical Assistance Project?
The BOR Project Partners
Top-down Approach to Change
Post Project Update
Bill of Rights Implementation Training. Read More>
What are the Bill of Rights for Children of the Incarcerated?
“The Bill of Rights is derived from interviews and experiences shared by children and families who have experienced parental incarceration. These rights and needs may sometimes conflict with, and must be balanced against institutional concerns and requirements, but (the authors) believe it is essential to start from the child perspective and work on what is possible from there.”
-Nell Bernstein, co-author of the Bill of Rights for Children of the Incarcerated
The eight rights are as follows (also available at: www.sfcipp.org, 2005):
1. I have the right to be kept safe and informed at the time of my parent’s arrest.
2. I have the right to be heard when decisions are made about me.
3. I have the right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent.
4. I have the right to be well-cared for in my parent’s absence.
5. I have the right to speak with, see, and touch my parent.
6. I have the right to support as I face my parent’s incarceration.
7. I have the right not to be judged, blamed, or labeled because of my parent’s incarceration.
8. I have the right to a lifelong relationship with my parent.
The BOR offers an ideal framework to guide a policy change movement that represents the voices of the children and serves their best interests.
What was the Bill of Rights Technical Assistance Project?
The National Bill of Rights Project, with partnerships in 14 states, initiated a technical assistance project to craft a pilot effort for a future and larger policy reform movement needed on behalf of children of incarcerated parents. This trial effort used the eight rights as a framework, seeking to share lessons learned, while documenting successful approaches and strategies to be used in the needed full-scale national movement.
When advocates compared the stories and the experiences of children of prisoners described in the BOR to the stories of the children they worked with common themes emerged, further confirming that the BOR indeed exposed many of the policy flaws and omissions among the various service systems affecting these children and change was needed.
The selection process for the applicants for participation in the BOR Project gave consideration to the geography & diversity of demographics among the partner groups and diversity of programmatic themes and goals.
1. ARIZONA: This coalition had the distinction among the BOR partners of having funding to support their Bill of Rights Project. They had one full-time staff person to work on the project. The Arizona BOR partner also enjoyed the support of their Governor’s Office and had six years of history working together. Their developmental process flowed smoothly from their prior work and their careful planning for bringing in regional working groups, as the original applicant was Tucson-based. There were several other BOR applicants from Arizona for the OSI partnership, and the selected group in Tucson, Pima Prevention, agreed to bring the other BOR applicants into the BOR coalition partnership, making it a statewide initiative. They have produced an outstanding, detailed report of their BOR Project, along with a compendium of national resources.
2. ARKANSAS: The Arkansas BOR Partner created a task force in late 2005, a statewide coalition of 32 groups led by the 14-year old agency, Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, Inc. This BOR partner hoped to further enhance parent-child visitation at the state’s prisons; garner support for a preventive guardianship subsidy for all relative caregivers; eliminate or reduce the prison-based surcharges for collect calls from prisoners; to develop school-based trainings and services for the children, and to sustain a trained, multi-lingual, statewide Crisis Response Team for children of undocumented parents. (To respond when large ICE raids occur and their parents are arrested, a somewhat frequent crisis in the state.)
“These eight rights are rights that every child deserves, rights unto themselves, whether they affect only one child or three million children, children of the incarcerated, or all children left behind for all the reasons this occurs, and are rights for all children, for the children’s sake. Not because of other beneficial consequences.”
-Susan D. Phillips, PhD., Evaluator of National BOR Project
3. CONNECTICUT: The lead agency of Connecticut BOR Partners was a small non-profit agency, Families in Crisis, Inc., serving children in the Hartford area for many years. This agency developed a small coalition whose hoped-for outcomes would include greater resources for the implementation of services for the children and parents. They engaged the Connecticut Commission on Children, a quasi-governmental agency, whose members recognized the need for action on behalf of the children. In their consideration of arrest protocols for law enforcement, they engaged the New Haven Community Policing model, with a representative coming to a roundtable of concerned legislators, members of the Commission on Children, senior level members of the Connecticut Department of Correction and others. One proposal was the creation of a position with the state DOC that would be informed and charged with shining a light onto the children and their needs, then leading to DOC policies and practices to make that system more responsive to the children of incarcerated parents.
The CT BOR Partner succeeded in receiving state funding for services to the children, along with a University of Hartford evaluation study. Their plans for 2009 include a small pilot project to offer family impact statements, to be included in the presentence investigations out of the Public Defenders’ office. DOC in Connecticut is currently rebidding their prison telephone contract with the intention to make it family friendly with a minimum of costs.
4. ILLINOIS: The OSI BOR Partners in Illinois had previously developed a task force on children of the incarcerated (Children of Promise) in the Chicago area. The Task Force preceded their partnership with the BOR Project. The partnering group was primarily focused on incarcerated mothers and their children, and included a group of formerly incarcerated mothers, a legal aid organization on behalf of incarcerated mothers, the director and staff of the women’s unit of Cook County jail, a social service agency serving caregivers of the children and school-based services for the children. The long-standing goal of this task force was to offer community-based sentencing alternatives for mothers, preventing the separation of mothers and their children, while providing services that would be consequential for rebuilding the bonds.
Another effort of the BOR partner in Illinois was undertaken by the staff of the Cook County Jail. Their goal was to offer contact visits for mothers and children in pre-trial detention at the jail. This improvement was already on the drawing board when the OSI BOR partnership began. The implementation of the contact visitation program for a designated set of mothers in one of the largest jails in the country occurred on May 12, 2008. This was a ground-breaking event for all jails throughout the nation.
The creation of greater public awareness of the needs of children of the incarcerated in Illinois was the goal of another task force member-group, the Community Renewal Society, an ecumenical, faith group with a long standing history of activism in the Chicago region. They published stories about the children in their magazine publication and involved the faith community in this effort. The Washington Post followed up with a story on their efforts. The member-group also planned a faith-based summit on behalf of the children of prisoners that was held in the fall of 2008.
5. MASSACHUSETTS: The lead agency, Community Action, Inc. with a Head Start component, and the other partners in this small coalition were leaders and organizations within the community of Haverhill, Massachusetts, north of Boston, including the Probation and the Police Department, staff of a small correctional facility for women, the Essex County Correctional Facility for Women in Transition, along with staff of the Motheread Program at the Women’s Prison in Salisbury.
The Massachusetts BOR Partner was also focused on mothers and their children, and the involvement of Head Start meant that many of the children were young. The group was formed six years ago. However, it coalesced when Haverhill was selected as a BOR partner in 2006.
The emphasis for the BOR partnership in Essex County was on developing positive practices for keeping the mothers and the children connected, including literacy and visitation programs. The area Head Start program was deeply involved in services for the women and children, and it is worth noting that the staff members of the Women in Transition program were extremely dedicated to serving the children and their mothers by maintaining strong connections between the mothers and the children.
The Head Start director held trainings concerning children of the incarcerated for teachers, family advocates and Head Start parents at both the New England Head Start Conference and the MA Head Start Association Conference. (The income-eligibility requirement to enroll in Head Start programs means the presence of a significant number of children whose parents are either incarcerated or recently released.)
6. MICHIGAN: Kent County (Grand Rapids) entered the BOR Project late. The partners were focused on the development of a prison-community partnership, serving pre-release fathers in prison and their families. They were part of the Michigan Prison-RE-entry Initiative, funded by the Council of State Governments. Incarcerated fathers who were four-months away from their release were transferred to a prison in Kent County where their families were nearby. The Michigan Department of Correction, Parole and Probation, along with community agencies, came together to develop a program engaging the fathers and their families, with family conferences held for the four months prior to release between the fathers in the program and the mothers of their children. With both a parole field officer informed about family concerns, and a community-based organization working with the children and mother, the hope was for a more successful re-entry due to the focus on the family relations.
The Michigan BOR Partner also focused on the public awareness issue, holding a community-wide event with press coverage, a children’s choir, and speeches by policy makers.
7. MINNESOTA: The Minnesota BOR partnership, led by a well-established research and practice “think tank,” the Council on Crime and Justice in Minneapolis, brought together a large number of groups, each deeply committed to the children. Because of the presence of many teachers and other school professionals within the partnership coalition, there was great interest in this partnership on education and training for teachers and other school staff, with a concern that the children not be further pointed out or called attention to that might then result in the involvement of authorities, a concern reflected in the core principles of the BOR Project. These trainings are underway with members of the BOR Partnership conducting workshops with school-based social workers and psychologists.
Engaging the Police Departments of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to support the development of arrest protocols concerning children present at the arrest is a planned outcome for this BOR Partner. Presently, their energies are directed to development of the needed relationship with the police departments. Changes in visitation at DOC facilities and the encouragement of other ways of communicating are also planned initiatives of the Minnesota BOR Partners.
8. MONTANA : The Montana BOR Partnership worked collaboratively and statewide despite the enormous distances between the various members of the group. The state Head Start collaborative was the original applicant for the BOR partnership, but the coalition including family members, representatives of State DOC, Family and Children Services, Montana Prevent Child Abuse representatives, parole and probation, victim services, and several parenting program representatives who offer classes in the state prison system.
The Montana partnership chose Right # 1, with an emphasis on offering information not only at the point of arrest, but throughout the stages of a parent’s involvement in the criminal justice process. Their goal would be two informational toolkits. One toolkit would provide information to all parents of minor-aged children within the Montana DOC, using the DOC capabilities. They would also disseminate the toolkit through various community-based organizations in order to reach the caregivers of the children. The toolkit would help parents and caregivers in talking with their children about the criminal justice system, its processes and stages, giving children some understanding of the system and some predictability.
The second effort of the Montana group is an informational toolkit for professionals working with children of incarcerated parents. Funding for these materials was a barrier at first, but they have acquired $5,000 in funding from for publication and dissemination through a grant from the state’s Court Assessment Program. The Montana collaborative is ongoing, with a VISTA member to oversee the continuance of their Bill of Rights Project, renamed the Montana Alliance for Families Touched by Incarceration (MAFTI), a monthly newsletter of their activities to implement The Bill of Rights, and plans for a Family Resource Center to establish a statewide system of support for families touched by incarceration.
9. and 10. PENNSYLVANIA: Two groups were selected from the state of Pennsylvania, but the locations of the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were too far apart and the agendas of the two groups were differing.
“Our work should not further diminish or stigmatize these children; our efforts shall focus on their amazing strengths and resiliencies, while seeking to mitigate the traumas they are exposed to and supporting their healing from past traumas with improved policies and practices.”
-Claire Walker, Director, Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation
9. Pittsburgh and the County of Allegheny had embarked on the development of their jail. The community-wide effort to have their jail become supportive of the parent-child relationship during jail incarceration was underway prior to their becoming a BOR Partner. The community had committed to this project, with a series of stages outlined for their step-by-step approach. The actions of this BOR partnership included a child-friendly waiting area at their county jail, development of appropriate arrest protocols for law enforcement, determining safe locations appropriate for the officers to take children following a parent’s arrest without involving child welfare.
At this writing, the Pittsburgh BOR Partner has established a full-time attorney position from the county child welfare agency whose role is to connect the incarcerated parent to the child welfare system, insuring visits will occur with the child in the child welfare system, or arranging visits between a child and an incarcerated parent in the jail.
There is also a full-time Family Relationship Program Director at the jail who oversees the visits and the child-friendly waiting area, which includes mock-ups of the glass partitions that the child will encounter in their non-contact visits, helping the child to adapt to the glassed separation and enhance their skills in talking with their parent by phone. The development of these services was based on interviews and focus groups with incarcerated parents, caregivers, and older children. A film, Family Ties, directed by award-wining filmmaker, Peter Argentine, shares the stories of seven fathers, incarcerated and released, and may be ordered from their website, www.PittsburghChildGuidanceFoundation.org.
10. Philadelphia is home to The Pennsylvania Prison Society, the original Quaker organization which addressed prison reform in the 1700’s. As a BOR Partner, this collaborative was composed of many groups with diverse interests. The consensus of this partnership has included working with the Philadelphia prisons to enhance visitations for children, especially with their mothers in the Riverside Correctional Facility, as the current hours prevent school-aged children from visiting. Discussions are underway with the courts to examine the ways that children can be included in the sentencing phase or other phase of the judicial process. Legislative efforts include resolutions that would “recognize” the children as a group to be served. They anticipated a legislative hearing that would produce a Blue Ribbon Commission similar to the New Mexico Governor’s Commission on Children of the Incarcerated (PDF).
HR 203, a Resolution, was recently passed. It directs the Joint State Governing Commission to establish an Advisory Committee 1) to study the effects of parental incarceration on children of incarcerated parents; 2) to recommend a system for determining and assessing the needs of children of incarcerated parents, services available to them, and barriers to accessing those services; and 3) to make a report with recommendations to the House of Representatives by November 2010.
11. SOUTH CAROLINA: The BOR Partnership in South Carolina is one of the two partnerships led by university professors with skills, research and practice backgrounds concerning children of the incarcerated. The South Carolina partner did not need a great deal of technical assistance from the OSI Fellow. However, the partnering groups valued the cross-sharing of what the other groups were doing and the details of their efforts. This state has an extremely high rate of incarceration and is highly racialized, with a significant number of children affected.
The South Carolina Partners developed a work plan that extended beyond the OSI BOR Project. Their initiatives included a public awareness campaign with op-ed pieces, a television news story on a child of an incarcerated father, who appeared the next day on Oprah, an MLK service project where the children worked on housing for parents returning from prison. The BOR Partner organized key constituencies in the state with an interest in the children to become more effective advocates on behalf of children of incarcerated parents, and efforts to strengthen support for their caregivers, including parents returning, and work with schools to better support the children with training seminars.
12. TENNESSEE: In the early stages of the BOR Project, the Tennessee Alliance for Children of Prisoners determined that part of their project would be a “targeted” awareness campaign, using a newsletter concerning the children, publishing (with permission) copies of their letters, the Bill of Rights and personal and professional information about the needs of the children. The newsletters were distributed on a bi-monthly basis, culminating in a readership of 3,000. A prison-based print shop produced the hard copies that were sent out.
Additionally, the BOR partnership of Tennessee convened via the videoconferencing capability of the Tennessee Department of Correction on a monthly basis, and they were the first group in the BOR Project to prepare a Family Impact Statement for a defendant with three young children for whom he was the sole provider. The statement resulted in an alternative sentence for a father that prevented his children entering foster care, kept them with their working father and out of foster care while remaining together as a sibling group and a contract with the district court to provide other family impact statements at the court’s request.
The Tennessee BOR members also worked with their state legislature, for a second time within the past decade, to pass a joint resolution calling for a survey of incarcerated parents to identify the need for services for the children. At the time of this report, the survey has been completed and is available online.
“There is great urgency to our BOR policy work, as too many children are hurting and their numbers are growing. We must act NOW.”
-Alice Arceneaux, Director, Reconciliation Ministries of Tennessee
13. TEXAS: Austin/Travis County: The Travis County BOR Partner was already an active collaborative prior to the BOR Project: The Austin/Travis County Re-Entry Roundtable. The Roundtable membership desired to join the BOR Project, pursuing initiatives for the children. There was a subcommittee already established around children and families of the incarcerated. After selection as a BOR Partner, more groups joined the subcommittee focused on children and families. The group was interested in training for several of the systems where children of parents arrested and incarcerated, including training of school counselors and the public child welfare system, with collaboration and funding support for the training from the Seedling Foundation.
Dallas/Dallas County: A practitioner and advocate on behalf of children of incarcerated mothers and their mothers in Dallas, representing a jail program called Project Matthew (Contact: Lis Holland at email@example.com), joined the BOR Project, attending the first meeting between the partner members and myself in Austin. The activities and initiatives of the Dallas group concerned diversions for mothers of young children who were convicted of prostitution in Dallas County. The group gained the support of judges, prosecutors, and public defenders for their diversion efforts.
Other pursuits of the original Travis County partnership include:
* The development of a Family Visitation at the Travis State Jail;
* The development of a police protocol concerning children present at an arrest;
* Family impact statements, similar to environmental impact statements;
* Development of a statewide public education campaign;
* Bringing the ForeverFamily services of longtime practitioner, Sandra Barnhill, to Austin; and
* Expending the BOR Partnership to include Harris County (Houston), a city with the largest number of re-entering adults in the nation.
14. WASHINGTON STATE: The Washington State partnership selected for the BOR Project had already been in existence prior to the BOR Project. A collaborative group had been designated by the Washington State legislature to meet together around the issues of children of the incarcerated, holding meetings every one or two months. Washington State had a significant recent history of responding at the DOC programmatic level to the presence of parents of minor-aged children inside their prisons. Engagement with the BOR Project was a useful tool for the furtherance of their statewide efforts, which included a mandated review by state agencies of the impact of the policies of their agency on the children of the incarcerated.
The leadership of the Washington State BOR Partner was the other BOR partner with a university professor in the contact role for the BOR Project. A lengthy set of recommendations was written by Professor Kathi Russell, PHD., of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Several pieces of legislation concerning the well-being of the children in Washington were drafted and passed in the final months of the BOR Project, and thereafter.
The partner groups created action plans for policy and practice reforms at local and state levels.
Targeted changes are the reform efforts of the Bill of Rights partners for specific administrative, technical or micro-policy reforms that many groups undertook, both because they address specific policies harshly affecting the children and are less difficult reforms to implement. Such changes are enumerated in the Rights to Realities section of the Bill of Rights agenda.
Right # 1: I have a right to be kept safe and informed at the time of my parent’s arrest.
- Creation of arrest protocols (local and statewide);
- Law enforcement training to mitigate trauma when children are present at the arrest;
- Placement choices for the children at arrest without having them enter the child welfare system;
- Making arrest and placement identification a uniform practice among law enforcement agencies;
- Permitting the arrested parent to make at least two choices for caregivers of the children;
- Prevent children at the arrest from entering foster care if there is an appropriate caregiver available; and
- Developing written materials to be given to caregivers and children at the point of arrest, informing them of resources available in the post-arrest stage, explaining to the children what would happen next.
Right # 2: I have a right to be heard when decisions are made about me.
- Targeted trainings of institutions and staff affecting the lives of children of incarcerated parents. Several BOR Partners pursued trainings for school professionals, i.e., Chicago, IL; Minneapolis, MN; Haverhill, MA; Little Rock, AR; and Travis County (Austin), TX. Other groups trained Americorps Members, including VISTA, RSVP, and the Foster Grandparent Program. Child welfare caseworkers were trained, along with CASA workers.
“The focus on the children must include policies and services inclusive of their families and their incarcerated parents.”
-Brenda Olive, Caregiver, Board Member, Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, Arkansas BOR Coalition
Right # 3: I have a right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent.
- Use of strategies built on cost/benefit data to punctuate arguments favoring community sentencing alternatives that sustain family ties and parent-child connections;
- Family impact statements, similar to environmental impact statements. These statements have been used in Arkansas and Tennessee suggesting sentencing alternatives, keeping the families together, or orders of visitation for the children and/or facilitate transportation); and
- Proposals to train ad litem attorneys to speak on behalf of the children in a parent’s sentencing hearing, especially if the child has special needs or disabilities that were provided by the parent including the infants who are in danger of attachment disorders if separated from their primary caregiver, typically a mother. Further, judges could order breastfeeding, breast pumps, with documented support from physicians and nurses. Dullahs, child birth attendants from the community, could be ordered, if the defendant is a pregnant woman who will be incarcerated during her pregnancy and delivery.
Right # 4: I have a right to be well-cared for during my parent’s incarceration.
- Provision of preventive guardianship subsidies for the caregivers, giving children both the legal and psychological security benefits of a guardianship with a subsidy and does not require a termination of parental rights. (Most states offer guardianship subsidies, but only if the children are in the child welfare system. Preventive guardianships exist in only two states).
- Provide kinship caregivers with peer support and help in navigating the resources available to them, e.g., Toll-free Warm Line, manned by VISTA members, a Resource Center for Relative Caregivers and resource directories, computer kiosks in the waiting are of the jail with information for the caregivers on resources and services.
Right # 5: I have a right to see, feel, and touch my parent.
- Establishment of child-friendly visitation programs inside prison and jail systems;
- Placement of a full-time attorney from the county child welfare agency to connect the incarcerated parent to the child welfare system, insuring visits will occur with the child in the child welfare system, or arranging visits between a child and an incarcerated parent in the jail;
- Establishment of a Family Relationship Program Director who oversees the visits and the child-friendly waiting area of a jail;
- Installation of mock-ups of the glass partitions that the child will encounter in their non-contact visits with their non-contact visits;
- Establishment of a family Relationship Director helping the children prepare for the non-contact visits, along with trained volunteers; and
- Reduction of charges for collect phone calls from prison, including Corporate/DOC surcharges.
Right # 6: I have a right to support as I face my parent’s incarceration.
- Data gathering, using surveys, focus groups, updated intake forms, listening to the constituents and stakeholders in panel and individual conversations, listening to correctional, law enforcement, child welfare concerns about certain policy changes and their missions developed;
- A steady funding source from a state to underwrite, partially or fully, services for the children and their families, often called a One Per Cent to Prevent Fund.
Right # 7: I have a right not to be judged, blamed or labeled because my parent is incarcerated.
- Public education and awareness campaigns that sensitize the general public to the presence and the needs of the children of prisoners and during re-entry, including posters, DVDs, radio and TV PSAs, community radio and TV shows, faith-based summits, conferences.
As an Open Society Institute Fellow, I was not able to be involved in initiating legislative changes among the BOR Partners. However, BOR Partners were interested in the broad changes that could happen with legislation of policies.
As part of my technical assistance role, I was able to provide draft and pending legislation from other BOR Partners that had successfully codified some of the needed policies. There were other states seeking remedies with legislation that were included for review.
Legislative solutions included resolutions, funding for data gathering, services and research evaluations, kinship caregiver subsidies, and the engagement of state agencies to review policies and practices impacting children of the incarcerated.
The Washington BOR Partner had succeeded in passage of legislation to direct the agency reviews and recommendations for additional policy changes by state agencies or through legislation prior to the project start-up. This top-down approach to policy change has become more popular as a result of the actions of in the state of Washington and a few other states. Since the conclusion of the formal BOR Project, more statewide groups are interested in the outcomes of the legislative approaches similar to those in Washington.
There was a further policy pursuit by several of the partners, not explicitly covered in the Bill of Rights document, but an area close to my heart and several of the partners. I will describe these policy pursuits briefly. In the four decades of an increasing rate of incarceration, there is an increased rate of pregnant women entering our prisons, along with an increase in births during the mother’s incarceration. The policies of our facilities around the care of pregnant women incarcerated and in the labor and delivery rooms vary greatly, but have reflected the lack of gender-specific policies that must apply in the cases of pregnancy and delivery. The shackling of pregnant women during their medical transports and during labor and deliveries are practices derived from those used for men. Except, in the case of pregnant, laboring or delivering mothers, the restraint practices can harm both mother and child, both physically and emotionally.
Three states have enacted statutes specifically outlining when restraints can be used: Illinois, California, and Vermont. Other states have written policies concerning treatment of the mothers and newborns, and some of the regulations are subject to directives of administrators of the correctional entity with custody of the parent.
Recently, the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshall’s Office have agreed in a memorandum of understanding with Senator Durbin among others, that shackling would not be routinely used for pregnant or laboring/delivering incarcerated women. Shackling concerns are also in the Second Chance Act.
During the course of the BOR Project, several partners were interested in whether their local or state correctional entities engaged in these practices. Minnesota, Arkansas, and Philadelphia sought conversations and/or local or state statutes to abolish the practice.
Minnesota does shackle pregnant, incarcerated women, and the DOC was unwilling to explore changes in policies. Philadelphia succeeded in
The Arkansas legislature would not vote the bill out of committee in its 2007 session, despite a pending federal lawsuit by a formerly incarcerated mother who was restrained with shackles and handcuffs during medical transport and delivery of her son. The case is still pending in the 8th Circuit (Nelson v. Norris). New legislation will be offered in the current 2009 legislative session led by the ACLU of Arkansas.
The BOR Project was only the first experimental step for a larger united multi-state policy reform effort.
The hoped-for convening of the BOR partners was held in Chicago on December 3, 2007. This was an exciting conclusion of the fellowship project. Representatives from 12 of the 14 partners were able to attend the event, and for the first time the partners were together in the same space, meeting one another and sharing their work in person. The convening partners developed recommendations and led to a consensus of the partners to remain an ongoing partnership. The BOR Project has become the National Bill of Rights Policy Partnership for Children of the Incarcerated, with an agreement to remain a continuing partnership through conference calls, e-mails, and a concerted effort to bring other groups and states into a continuing policy effort.
We are divided into four groups: Policy, Practice, Research, and Resource Development. The partnership has sustained itself without funding for 2008, and I, and the partners, am now often called upon to offer policy recommendations and strategies for other groups seeking the same improved outcomes. Our membership is now open to other established groups using the Bill of Rights as the framework for pursuing positive policy and practice changes for the children.
Three states are currently pursuing legislation to abolish the practices within correctional settings to use restraints and shackles on pregnant women during transport, labor and childbirth. The states are Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and New Mexico.
Announcement: Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind effort is pleased to announce a new and powerful partnership with the state child welfare agency concerning children with multiple placements while in care. We are partnering with the agency for the grant opportunity to facilitate the finding of relatives and bringing them into the family group decision-making forum, to provide either permanency for the children or the engagement of family and fictive kin to keep the children in contact with their families and friends. The Governor has provided a significant portion of the cash match for this grant proposal. A significant number of the children are in care due to parental incarceration.
Former OSI Media Fellow Nell Bernstein, a journalist who wrote the groundbreaking book, All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated (The New Press, 2005), supported the BOR project, which relied on The Bill of Rights, which Bernstein also wrote, along with remedies and innovations that were explored in her book. The Family and Corrections Network (FCN), a national advocacy and resource group based in Philadelphia, hosted the BOR Project. FCN’s Director, Ann Adalist-Estrin, provided her broad knowledge and collected wisdom throughout the project, while Susan D. Phillips, PhD., a well-known researcher in this field and professor at the Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, provided her skills in evaluating the project and writing a contextual report. Her evaluation and the contextual description accompany this publication.
The Open Society Institute was a valuable backer of the BOR Project, including Christine Voight, Susan Tucker, and Adam Culbreath, my program officer. And I acknowledge my colleague, Randi Blumenthal Guigui, whose behind-the-scenes support meant so much.
My husband, Frank, and my daughter, Anna, were helpful in the writing and editing of this publication, providing support and patience with me during my many travels to meet with the partners and my obsessive preoccupation with the success of the BOR Project.
For more information regarding the Bill of Rights Project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.