Bethesda, Maryland, September 15, 1998
Table of Contents (Click on the title to jump down to the section)
Research on Children of Incarcerated Parents – Denise Johnston, M.D.
Bridging the Gap Between Criminal Justice and Child Welfare Systems – Ann Jacobs
Children of Prisoners: Voices of Experience – Emani Gaynes Davis & Chesa, Tom Alexander: Moderator
In our work at the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents, we often say that there has been little research on children of offenders. In fact, this is not strictly true. There is a modest amount of research concerning these children reported in the scholarly literature.
In 1912, Breckinridge & Abbott described children of criminals living in the Chicago slums, noting their increased propensity to become criminal themselves. The Gluecks (1950), in the second, third and fourth decades of this century, conducted their comprehensive examination of juvenile delinquency which included the finding that parental criminality was a predictor of juvenile crime.
In 1946, Otterstrom found that juvenile recidivism was directly associated with parental crime and incarceration. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, the McCords (1958, 1977) continued to focus on the child outcomes of parental dysfunction, including parental criminality. During the next two decades, several studies (Blumstein, et.al., 1986; Robins, 1979; Robins, West & Herjanic, 1965) demonstrated that “antisocial and criminal parents have criminal and violent sons” (Raine, 1993, 245).
A later series of adoption studies attempted to delineate the differing strengths of genetic and environmental influences on criminal behavior. The largest of these studies to measure intergenerational criminal behavior were conducted in Europe:
Bohman and his group (1982), including Cloninger, et.al. (1982) and Sigvardson, et.al. (1982), reported findings from a large-scale Swedish adoption study that examined criminal behavior of children born to criminal parents but reared by adoptive parents.
Reporting on a Danish adoption study that utilized a “cross-fostering” paradigm, in which criminality is measured among natural and adopted offspring and natural and adoptive parents, Baker and his group (1986) and Mednick, et.al. (1984) agreed that there were heritable influences for recidivistic, nonviolent crime.
Virtually all of this work was conducted with the intent of identifying predictors of juvenile delinquency and adult crime. The focus of these studies was neither the children nor the quality of their lives.
Beginning about 20 years ago, another type of research on children of offenders emerged. Influenced by both the women’s movement and the burgeoning numbers of female offenders in the US, these studies were conducted by women investigators on the children of women prisoners.
These women had a new perspective on children of offenders, one which focused on the children’s experience, regardless of their delinquency or potential criminality. The result was a small body of literature which examined children of incarcerated women from their mothers’ point of view. Naturally, this literature was most often concerned with parent-child separation.
The seminal study in this body of work was conducted by Brenda McGowan and Karen Blumenthal of Columbia University. The Children’s Defense Fund published their landmark, 1978 study of the children of women prisoners. In an effort that will probably never be duplicated, McGowan and Blumenthal surveyed a majority of all women incarcerated in the United States. Like the studies of Phyllis Jo Baunach (1978), Zelma Henriques (1982) and others (Frisch & Burkhart, 1982; Koban, 1983; Sack, Seidler & Thomas, 1976) that followed/ McGowan and Blumenthal’s research described children of offenders with information obtained by surveying their parents.
This remains an invaluable body of work. – But the limitations imposed by its methodology continue to confound us. While earlier quantitative research and contemporary adoption studies only investigated children of offenders who were themselves delinquent or criminal, the more recent and arguably more valuable qualitative research only accessed the children through their parents who were incarcerated.
The inability to identify and examine children of offenders independently of the location of their parents, and the inability to study these children as index subjects of research rather than as adjuncts of their parents, has severely restricted what we know about them. For example, we have no methodology for accurately measuring the number of children of criminal offenders in the US or any of its jurisdictions.
We know to a great deal of certainty, from large-scale national studies, that about three quarters of incarcerated women are mothers who have an average of 2.4 dependent children each (Baunach, 1978; Glick & Neto, 1977; McGowan & Blumenthal, 1978; Task Force on the Female Offender, 1990; US Department of justice, 1993). However, we know to a much less degree of certainty that about 60% of all incarcerated men are fathers with an average of 2.0 dependent children each (US Department of justice, 1993).
These figures have allowed us to make reasonable estimates of the number of children of prisoners in any correctional setting. But as we extrapolate to populations of offenders under community supervision, the formula becomes much less accurate, since an offender’s family circumstances and responsibilities are often factors in sentencing and parole decisions. And, any attempt to use this formula to estimate the number of children of offenders who are not under any form of correctional supervision is little more than an informed guess.
Even as the number of arrested and incarcerated persons in the US has grown dramatically, leading to increased attention to these once-ignored children, we have had no reliably representative data that describes them. Although the data produced by McGowan and Blumenthal was statistically reliable and the study population clearly representative of the larger group, the topics they investigated in their national survey were extremely limited. The component of their study conducted an a local women’s jail covered a broader range of topics in more detail; however, the small group of women who were surveyed were self-selected and there was no effort to compare them to other women inmates in the facility to determine the degree to which they were representative of that population.
Researchers in this area have consistently had problems accessing representative study populations of sufficient size. Studies by Henriques (1982) and Sack, Seidler & Thomas in 1976, for example, surveyed very small samples of incarcerated parents or children’s caregivers. Bloom and Steinhart (1993) and the Prison Visitation Project (1993) surveyed significant proportions of their target populations, but study participants were self-selected. In spite of those limitations, these studies produced data which supported the perception of advocates (Bakker, 1978; Barry, 1985; Fishman, 1982) that children of prisoners have few resources and are often troubled by emotional and behavioral reactions to separation from their parents.
Finally, access to the children themselves has been virtually impossible. Only a handful of studies conducted prior to this decade directly interviewed, tested or otherwise examined children of offenders in any way:
In 1977, William Sack studied a small sample of behaviorally disordered, psychiatric clinic patients who also happened to be the children of prisoners.
In 1980, Ann Stanton examined 118 children of jailed mothers in an excellent study that compared them to 48 children of mothers on probation in demographic characteristics, educational performance and legal socialization.
In 1990, Gabel and Shindeckler studied a clinical sample of 15 abused and molested youth in a day treatment program.
In each of these cases, the subjects were defined as “children of incarcerated parents” although the populations were very different.
Ultimately, the largest body of research relating to children of incarcerated parents will probably turn out to be program reports and evaluations. Some of this literature evaluates services for incarcerated parents or prisoners and their children (Bayse, 1991 ; Browne, 19 89; Glasser, 1990; Landreth & Lobaugh, 1998) but most simply describes service programs.
(Blinn, 1997; Cannings, 1990; Gabel & Girard, 1995; Johnston, 1995b; Vacchio, 1991; Weilerstein, 1995).
The information contained in these studies is invaluable for practitioners. But by its nature, program research can only provide data on highly selected sub-groups of the target population. Without broader population profiles to which study groups can be compared, this type of research is of limited use in describing the status and needs of children of incarcerated parents.
The Developmental Perspective of the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents
One of the purposes for which our Center was founded was to increase the amount of high quality documentation on children of criminal offenders. We began by creating the simple formula now used to estimate the number of dependent children of any correctional population. However, our major task has been to describe the life experience and characteristics of this population of children. We believe that, like all work with children, this work requires both scientific rigor and a developmental perspective.
Research at the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents has been conducted along several tracks:
1. Intergenerational Trauma, Crime & Incarceration
In 1990, we conducted the jailed Mothers Study Johnston, 1995c), which surveyed 100 out of 114 mothers incarcerated at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside County.
While the study provided one of the few, if not the only, comprehensive descriptions of jailed mothers, its purpose was to begin an examination of the factors that contributed to intergenerational crime. We found significant levels of intergenerational trauma, victimization and substance dependency among our subjects. However, one of the most important findings of the study was that 10% of the adult and minor children (mean age about 10 years) of the women surveyed had themselves been jailed or imprisoned. Nationally, the lifetime risk of imprisonment by age 65 is 9.8% (USDO], 1997). It is unlikely that there is any other group of children in the US who-experience a greater level of risk for incarceration than children of prisoners.
As part of this research track, we are conducting a study on substance-dependent parents and their children. This investigation, which began in 1993, continues to produce data which supports a relationship between childhood trauma and criminal offending.
2. The Lives of Children of Offenders
In 1991, we began to study children of offenders in the communities in which they live. Through 16 of the more than 36 direct service and research projects we have conducted since 1990, we have gathered data on children from the prenatal period through age 18. Most of these children have received a comprehensive assessment that includes a parent and family history, a developmental history and assessment, a child interview with a clinical psychologist, home and classroom observations, standardized measurements of home and classroom behavior, standardized measurements of self-concept and locus of control, and a review of the child’s academic, medical and mental health records.
The first two years of our investigation among early adolescents produced the Children of Offenders Study Johnston, 1992). That study, which is also reported in our book “Children of Incarcerated Parents”, identified three characteristics of children of offenders which distinguish them from their classmates and neighborhood peers: 1) childhood trauma, 2) lack of family support, largely due to parent-child separations, and 3) an inadequate quality of care, largely due to poverty. Children of offenders who appeared most likely to enter the criminal justice system could be distinguished from their siblings by enduring trauma. the experience of recurrent episodes of multiple types of trauma throughout their lifetime Johnston & Carlin, 1996).
This activity also clarified for us the importance of a developmental analysis of data on this population. We believe that both childhood trauma and criminal behavior can only be understood as developmental processes. This understanding requires a thorough grounding in the discipline of child development. Lack of expertise in this area has profoundly limited researchers and service providers working in the criminal justice arena.
We continue to struggle with the difficult of identifying representative samples of children for research. Our studies of children of criminal offenders are conducted in high-crime communities, on kids who have been referred to our Therapeutic Intervention Project for classroom behavior and disciplinary problems, their siblings and child members of their extended families. This is not a randomly-selected group of children. We qualify our findings by saying that we study the children of offenders who appear to be most likely to enter the criminal justice system themselves. This project, which has been expanded to include children ages 4-14, is now in its seventh year.
3. Children and Parents in Correctional Settings
We have conducted a series of research projects in this area:
In 1991, we began with a study of parent-child contact visitation programs in California county jails Johnston, 1991). That study found that less than 0.01 % of the children of California jail inmates were able to participate in these highly-touted programs.
In 1993, with the assistance of Centerforce, we conducted a study of children’s behavioral reactions to parent-child visitation in prisons Johnston, 1995e). We found that behavioral reactions are common, transient and most likely to occur among children who have previously lived with the parent they are visiting for more than six months.
In 1994, we conducted an examination of barrier visiting areas and visitor waiting rooms in California County jails Johnston, 1995d). This was an environmental study which examined the suitability of such areas for use by children. We found that only one waiting area and no barrier visiting rooms had been adapted for use by children, and we suggested modifications that would make these areas developmentally and environmentally appropriate for children.
4. Reviews and Reports
Through our clearinghouse, we have also issued a series of reviews of the literature which examine topics such as incarcerated fathers, incarcerated mothers, intergenerational incarceration and skills for working with offenders and their families. Our other publications include reports from our service projects on client demographics, service needs and- service outcomes. For example, the preliminary report from our Child Custody Advocacy Services or CHICAS Project described the child custody needs of the 660 incarcerated parents who were clients of that project between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1994 (Johnston, 1995a).
We also conduct evaluations of our services and of the services of other programs and agencies. Research in this area tends to be challenging for several reasons:
First, evaluation was not included in the project design of most existing programs of services for children of offenders. Most programs do not systematically collect the objective data that would make outcome evaluation possible.
Second, since the status of children of offenders has not been well-documented, agencies have found it difficult to generate appropriate short-term outcomes for small groups in local jurisdictions. Even where programs have achieved short-term outcomes (like increased literacy or improved self-esteem), the relationships between the characteristics of the children in the service population, service outcomes and the effects of parental incarceration have not been well-established.
Third, there is seldom agreement on other long-term goals or objectives for services to children of offenders. The single outcome for which there is general consensus-prevention of delinquency and criminality among children of offenders–requires sustained services and long-term follow-up which few agencies have been able to provide.
To our knowledge, there is no program of services for children of offenders in the United States which currently meets these criteria for adequate outcomes evaluation. But there are many newer programs in which evaluation is a critical component and which have made substantive efforts to define the variables that will influence their long-term outcomes. Their evaluation reports are eagerly awaited.
Much of the Center’s research has been unfunded and conducted by formerly incarcerated persons. While we feel we have done a tremendous amount of work in nine years, we also recognize that we still face a monumental task in attempting to produce accurate information on all aspects of the lives of representative populations of children of offenders.
We invite you to join us in this work.
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… most recently in the Mayor’s office where we’ve been doing alternatives to incarceration. And what I remembered very shortly after hitting the Women’s Prison Association was why I had spent so much time kind of avoiding the special issues of women in prison and it’s because it’s so poignant and so painful. And so difficult for all of us to work with women, we know that that’s what the guys say about working with women in the criminal justice system. We know that it’s true not just because women show up as somehow complex creatures with a lot of demands and requirements and needs that need to get addressed, but because they are kind of simultaneously involved in all of these different systems at once. You can’t deal with someone just ad a function of the criminal justice system. They’re simultaneously involved in the child welfare system, the public health system, and on and on and on.
And so taking over responsibility for the social services agency I had to do kind of a quick course in all of those systems and in fact I brought you information on our programs. I also brought you a very detailed version of what I’m going to talk about today so that you can take that away with you. You don’t need to take notes on it. We’d love to have you come visit and be a resource to you after this particular event.
But, what I wanted to talk to you about today was my crash course in the abyss that exists between the criminal justice system and the child welfare system. And you’re a little bit different audience than the one I normally talk to about this because my inquiry into it was funded by the Annie Casey foundation which has as it’s focus child welfare and gave me the opportunity to go into other jurisdictions and talk to child welfare people.
Particularly we did a lot of work in Maryland. Maryland was one of the sites that Annie E. Casey funded for their Family to Family initiative which was a national project of the Casey foundation to refocus the way that foster care and child welfare services were done in jurisdictions from the kind of presumption of stranger provided foster care to a presumption in favor of keeping kids in their own communities whenever possible with their own families or at least in the community with family based foster care as opposed to congregate care or institutionally based foster care. And in the course of them providing this assistance to a number of different states, they funded a number of technical service providers to help those jurisdictions wrestle with the very real problems of making that kind of shift. So they’ve developed this rich set of training materials that are there to help people who are trying to work with people who have substance abuse problems or who are trying to do institutional change and the materials that I’m sharing with you are really only one of twelve monographs that they have produced, that they would love to make available to any of you who are interested in it. So, like I said, I think you’re a little bit difference audience than the ones I normally talk to, about this particular topic.
When I go in and I talk to child welfare people, I’m talking to people who as I’ve discovered know very little about the criminal justice system. Have dealt with kids who have parents who are involved in it to a much greater degree than most of us would think or that they’ve been trained to do, and in large part have kind of given up on the mom. They have know the moms over a long period of time, over many years of primarily substance abuse, because as we know the majority of women who are in the criminal justice system are there for drug related crimes, or actually for possession or sales of drugs. The kids may actually have been know to the criminal justice system in advance of that particular arrest that we get to know the woman on. And while they have in most states even up to and including the recent federal change in child welfare legislation which is quite abysmal from where we stand being advocates for moms. Even in advance that most of the states have a responsibility for working with the biological moms toward reunification and often don’t do it very well. For a lot of reasons including that they’ve already…
One of the pieces that we have developed out of one of our programs quite accidentally is something that I just wanted to show you a snippet of a videotape and then show you a little bit more down the line. One of our programs is called the Sarah Powell Huntington House and it’s a transitional residence for women who are coming out of prison and jail who are homeless who seek to reunify with their kids, and who in New York got caught in that vicious catch 22 that if you come out and you want to go to family court and you want to get your kids back you have to demonstrate to them that you’ve got the right kind of residence. But if you come out and you’re homeless, and go to a homeless assistance to get the right kind of residence, unless you’ve got your kids in hand, they consider you a single and put you in a dormitory, kind of armory setting. So, we were able to with the support of the homelessness system to create this apartment building where women come in as singles, they share apartments as roommates, they start the visitation at the agency and then weekend visitation at our facility and then they get trial discharge where the kids are with them, they become a family with us, we are able to provide them with support services on site. We have a child care center for the kids that are up to school age and then we’ve got after school programs and weekend programs for the kids who are school aged. And we got this sort of, just, we’re always asking for money to do things, and we got this money from the Manhattan Neighborhood Network which is supposed to put access to cable TV for people who are traditionally excluded from access to those kinds of resources, and we thought, let’s let the kids do it. Well, I’m gonna show you what the kids have done. And I usually show it to people who sort of don’t know who our moms are and who are kids are and have to be enrolled in why they should want to put more energy into having the moms be with the kids. So, I don’t know if there’s any purpose in me showing it to you today except that I always find it moving. Would you…
I did do these things, and we do recognize these things. It’s not what I did then, it’s what I’m doing now. And that took a lot of work, because in regards to myself, one of the first things I thought about was how am I going to make up to my family for all the bad things I did.
Well that was the part I was going to show you later and I’m not feeling flexible enough to sort of make it up from there so I’m going to ask him to put in the other tape and to show you the introduction to it. And then we’ll come back to this part a little bit later on. Part of the reason that I’m showing it to you is that in the course of your thinking about this stuff today when you go back home, you’ll think about some explicit activities to bridge the child welfare and criminal justice system and think about whether perhaps these tapes could be useful to you there because we’re happy to make them available to you. Now, oh I can do this right.
“My name is Miles Night and I am eleven years old. This is Autumn Austin, she is fifteen. And Crystal Green, she’s thirteen. We live on the lower East side. We live in a place called Huntington House and we’re television producers.”
That’s really what I wanted you to get. That’s it. I mean these kids literally did this all by themselves. They did the camera work, they did the editing, they did the scripting, and in their very first episode that’s how they started and they get to this point where they say and we’re television producers. And I mean as many times as I’ve watched this videotape it keeps giving me goosebumps because it speaks to the world as I think we’re all committed to having it be where these kids can show up as television producers or anything that they want, and they’re kids of people who have been or are incarcerated. And part of the abyss that we get to bridge in partnership with them is figuring out how to have that reality work a little bit better.
As I said my interest today is in enrolling you in carrying your work, supporting you in whatever ways we can to carry this work into the next place in your own jurisdiction. Um, I’m making an assumption that most of you work in the criminal justice system. Is that right? No. So maybe it would make sense for me to check in with you a little bit and make sure that what I’m going to do today is going to be worthwhile to you. Tell me where you’re from and what you want out of today.
So, what’s clear to me and probably what’s clear to you is that both the child welfare and the criminal justice systems work with virtually the same kind of families. They’re overwhelmingly poor, they’re overwhelmingly effected by substance abuse. And yet in most jurisdictions, these two systems have almost no contact with each other. Don’t work together in any kind of systematic way, and in fact don’t understand each other or the mandates that are driving the other system at all.
What we discovered from the work that we did in Maryland, um, some of our information sharing that we’re doing in New York, in fact there’s a lot that you can do to bridge these two systems that’s even short of funding a new program. I mean, what it takes is a certain amount of consciousness, a certain amount of commitment, a lot of energy. A lot of dogged energy over a long period of time, and that kind of enrolling your colleagues in carrying this message or this banner with you because it gets pretty lonely, and in fact what you’re doing is kind of long term education towards systems change as much I would assert as trying to benefit those specific children or families that you’re seeing day to day, week to week month to month.
I don’t think that I need to run you through the data that talks about how many kids are effected by parental incarceration and why we should be concerned about this. That’s what this whole conference is about, that’s why you’re in the room, although we have done some work at documenting that for people who may not be aware of the scope, the number of children who are effected. It’s really not enough to think about the number of children who are effected by having an incarcerated parent on any particular day, the fact is that some child’s life is altered forever if their parent is involved in the criminal justice system and/or incarcerated. So you’re dealing with a cumulative number that’s much more mammoth than any of us I think have any real idea. In fact, the lack of any kind of data to document the number of kids is I think indicative of the kind of abyss that I’m talking about here.
So when we began to look at this issue, we tried to look at it as broader than just what happens when mom’s in jail or in prison. Because in fact, in this community, as under attended to as it is, there is more community around visitation in prison than sort of any other aspect of it that we looked at. And yet, I think that we need to look at it chronologically for the whole system. I mean, in fact it starts way before arrest but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s just start with arrest, and the fact that little attention is paid to the needs of children in the arrest process.
Children sometimes view the actual arrest. Almost no attention is given to supporting an arrested parent in making provisions for their children. In fact, it’s difficult to do that, not just because they’re not given access to telephone and their address book, but because there’s a tremendous disincentive for them to be very honest about the fact that they’ve got kids at home because they’re afraid that the authorities will sweep in and take the kids away. There’s a lot of management of perception and reality around that that would have to occur to shift that kind of practice, but it’s worth looking at.
As a result of this kind of early on lack of attention, children are often left with caregivers that are not very well equipped to deal with their needs. Mom gets access to telephone, asks someone to pick up their kid, does that, without that person having any clear idea how long mom’s likely to be locked up. How long before arraignment, whether she’s likely to make bail, how long she’s facing. So someone who can take care of the kid for two hours after school may not be the person that someone could like place their child with while they go off and do a one to three year bit for a drug conviction. Which just contributes to the instability for the child. It starts from day one and it continues and sort of falls out like a domino effect based on that lack of attention early on.
We all know that kids need to visit their parents. They need to visit them soon. They watch cartoons on Saturday morning where what imprisonment means to them is somebody like penned up against a wall of a dungeon. And that’s what they imagine as happening to their mom. As horrendous as jails and prisons are, often they’re not as scary as what the kids makes up. And often the child doesn’t see the razor wire in the same way we do. They see their mom, she’s intact, she’s glad to see them
Approximately fifty percent of children won’t visit their moms even when they’re in prison. And yet we know that regular visitation has everything to do with the likelihood for reunification after imprisonment. And most systems don’t provide any kind of significant prerelease support to women who are coming out and they certainly don’t look at bridging this gap. The reality of the fact that there are moms who are also going to be on parole. When we tried to figure out what was going on in New York and we asked the parole department how many women coming out on parole have kids they want to reunify with, “what?”. They didn’t know how many were mothers, let alone how many had children, let alone where those kids were, let alone whether there were any goals for reunification. I mean they were doing the best they could to do a home visit and to focus on trying to get the person working within a period of time.
And I don’t say this in a way that I want to be heard as faulting the individual parole or probation officer. There’s a way that their jobs have gotten defined and there’s a way that their case-loads are managed that really doesn’t allow them to pay attention to those kinds of things. And yet, what do we know about those women who are coming out. More important than getting to report to the parole officer or peeing in a jar on a regular basis or doing any of these other things, is making a connection with that child. And yet parole and probation officers are typically not oriented towards paying attention to that.
And in fact in New York City where we went through this total kind of rethinking of probation because they had very large caseloads, and never have been very well funded, and in fact probably never will be very well funded, the resources were reallocated in probation to focus on those offenders who presented the highest risk to public safety. Well those are never going to be women. So it means that the women basically were going onto probation and all they had to do was like this sort of minimal check-in a kiosk. Like going to a bank machine sort of I’m alive I’ve checked in but it’s not a vehicle for giving services. If one has a theory of getting arrested as also indicating that they’re some needs that need to get met if the person is not gonna come back as a second and third time offender with mandatory prison time, then we’re loosing an opportunity there to provide basic services. Included in the things that aren’t getting attended to have to do with their family responsibilities and their kids.
And then, for many of us in our jurisdictions, immigration is a complicating issue, drug involvement is very much what’s going on. Often there is a family history of family violence. Maybe I think our women have a disproportionately high incidence of having been victims of sexual abuse including incest including as children, so that there are a range of mental health and social service issues needs that need to be met simultaneous. To paying attention to the criminal justice obligation and the child welfare obligations and that suggests a whole different level and kind of attention to discharge planning, to managing that transitional process and providing resources in the community than most jurisdictions are able to do.
And then, I mean and this will end my list of the problems and the barriers and my sort of battering us all with those, you know, we’ve got an external environment that gets increasingly hostile towards our clients day by day. We’ve got increasing penalties for most criminal offenses, especially drug offenses, this two and three strikes and you’re out stuff. At the same time that we’ve got this welfare reform which in my state makes enormous requirements on people, including that they participate in work assignments that no one is making any effort to reconcile with when they have to go to parole or probation, when they have to go to family court, but to keep the entitlement coming in, which keeps the residents, which keeps you out in the community, which keeps you able to talk to the court about getting your kid back you have to do these things. At the same time that we’ve got managed care in most jurisdictions making it harder to get medical care and you know, I won’t even go into all of that. And we’ve just had a change in federal legislation governing child welfare that’s going to create a presumption of loss of parental rights in 15-22 months when you know the sentences are going up.
On every level of analysis the individual on her way up to the institutional and systemic, it’s a harsh climate for women to be trying to get their lives together and try to take up responsibility for their kids. We could be making it a lot easier and part of starting modestly part of what I think would help do that is if we started becoming educated to each other’s systems. And to enroll stakeholders and, well we all know what stakeholders are, in the importance of addressing the special needs of incarcerated children and to be developing and modeling these kinds of collaborative working relationships between the systems. And, to identify existing resources, not be counting on windfalls of new programs that can serve as a foundation for more comprehensive strategies for working with incarcerated parents and their families.
So, what we did in Maryland and what this publication that I’m going to give you outlines was kind of a quick and dirty needs assessment and moving toward action planning for the state. We help them as consultants and I think consultants can be helpful, but I think there has to be local initiative and leadership to do something or else no one owns it and no one owns it and no one is going to make sure that it stays on the table. Something like this is going to be most effective if you can tap into very high levels of particularly the executive branch, what you want is someone who has the authority to call people from very diverse worlds together to begin to piece together what this looks like from a bunch of different perspectives. And ideally you want someone who’s gonna go to the highest elected officials including the governor and the mayor and county commission and say, you know, we’re really missing the boat here and need to refocus some of our resources slightly differently. And have someone who can see the big picture and go oh, if we take a little bit of this out of criminal justice and put it over here in drug treatment, or in child welfare we’re going to meet some sort of more global good.
We started with trying to do your basic statistical data gathering. You know what’s the size of the incarcerated population, how many men, how many women, how many of them are parents, how many of the kids are in the child welfare system with an incarcerated parent, what are the parents being convicted for, what’s the likely length of sentence, what’s the kids sort of history of involvement in the child welfare system, etc. etc. And to make a long story short, there’s not a lot of this kind of data.
But, there are formulas that we’ve pieced together and that are included in this that allow you to do some math to get to some basic numbers that will allow you to get to what you’re talking about and what you’re talking about is that the number of women are going up. 75-80 percent of them are moms. 70 percent have custody of about one child or more when they were arrested and statistically they’re parents of 2.4 children. So you do the math, and you come up with, particularly in urban jurisdictions, a significant number of kids who are currently affected by current parent parental incarceration and there’s a similar formula for the men.
I don’t mean to leave the men out, I think the incarceration of a father is extremely important it’s just that in my experience, well I work with women, and they were more often the custodial parent so I’d start there and assume that we all carry this other commitment to also supporting fatherhood.
In addition to the data that we gathered we engaged in this process which I call kind of surveying the universe which is talking to as many people as possible that represent as many different points of view as you can get represented and doing it in a bunch of different ways. One on one, informal conversations, more formal focus groups.
We got people from child welfare, child protection, foster care and adoption, preventive and family preservation and you’re right, they all see the world very differently. In some jurisdictions they’re the same people, in most they’re not. I mean in my experience they’re not. And they see it very differently from the family court judges. And then you’ve got the legal guardians and court appointed special advocates. And then you’ve got the social services and advocacy organizations and that’s just different points of view within the child welfare world. In criminal justice you’ve got prison and jail people. Jails are really under-attended to. This is like, an area that we badly need to pay attention to, etc. etc. You’ve got advocacy groups and community based agencies, providers of substance abuse treatment, providers of mental health services, children’s advocacy groups, women’s issues groups, men’s groups, churches, etc.
Give some consideration to what the political issues are. How that’s sort of governing the way that the conversations can be constructed. As I said we did quite a few focus groups and it was real interesting. And out of that we decided to take child welfare people to correctional facilities so they could see for themselves what they were like. And that was an awesome experience, because while many workers had gone on an individual visit to try to take a child in for visitation, they’d often had such a bad experience that they never wanted to do it again or think about it again. And they certainly didn’t reflect on the things that were driving the ways jails and prisons were managed. Nor had there been any kind of systemic conversation between people from both of those systems so we did that.
Out of that process we got to a point of identifying what we thought some of the major issues are. Again these are dealt with in more detail in the publication that I brought you but what we saw was that workers in both systems were frustrated. And they were particularly frustrated with each other. You know for child welfare workers it’s tremendously time consuming to take a child to prison, and then they’d show up there during the count. They don’t know what count is. And they’d show up there with gifts that the children had made that they wanted to give their parents. They couldn’t bring those gifts in. So they invested all this energy and they were just feeling thwarted and then additionally criminalized because they had to go through the metal detector, take off their shoes, explain that it was an under-wired bra, etc, etc., etc. They didn’t like it. They also felt dissed, we learned by the fact that jails wouldn’t tell them the day that somebody was going to be released. They didn’t understand what jails did and that jails didn’t know when somebody made bail or when somebody was going to be released from court. So those things were just another public servant withholding information from them. There were no fewer misunderstandings on the other side and so part of what had emerged were these areas where they needed to learn each other’s systems. Criminal justice people do not, they’ve never heard the term permanency planning. They don’t know when those child welfare workers are under some kind of pressure to make a decision about who’s going to have permanent custody of that child and that the more rigorously managed systems, that person is supposed to make that decision and that placement in a year. So, in my jail somebody could sit there for a year waiting for trial. You know, the systems are just like…like that. Um, we saw that the individuals interpretations were guiding how they were managing their jobs and responsibilities.
We saw that the child welfare people were really angry with the moms. They’ve known them for a long time, they’d seen them relapse a number of times, they’d be disappointed, they’d watch the kids be disappointed. And for them, this arrest is often the last straw. But then you’ve got the correctional counselor who’s seeing the mom sober, and seeing the mom, you know, like in this, within the walls showing up like a smart articulate loving caring parent who wants her child back. You know, and again you’ve got the kind of concerns like missing each other and not sort of factored in, you know, like we’re seeing the same situation from a different point of view, it’s like no I’m right, no you’re right. That kind of struggle was getting acted out over and over again.
We saw that resources in both systems were wasted by a failure to collaborate. That some families were being served by multiple systems. Some women were getting lots of parenting classes, some in the prison some through child welfare, ditto like drug treatment. Other women weren’t getting anything at all. There were certainly limits on the kind of cross system, collaboration, cooperative planning, information sharing that was going on.
We saw the incarcerated parents receive inadequate support. That in most jurisdictions they’re not resourced in a way where women are able to make very good use of their incarcerated time anymore. That there’s not the kind of links with community based agencies to smooth the transition, discharge planning starts too late. It doesn’t start when they hit the door, which is what we all know theoretically what we should be doing. And there are lots of reasons that that was occurring. I mean most often working effectively with incarcerated parents is hampered by the fact that the prisons are far away from where the moms come, where the kids are, that there are variations in policies governing visitation. Hours and days and the alphabet this day, and you know it’s like this big mystique and mystery that’s hard to govern. Women have very little access to telephones. Telephones, you know, use of the telephone can break the economics of the people in the community that are accepting all of these collect calls and if it’s stranger foster care there’s no way of really maintaining that contact. There’s a lack of private space in most facilities for case-workers to meet with moms and to do any kind of planning around some of these sensitive issues. It’s difficult to make referrals for people on the outside when they’re still on the inside. You know, drug treatment programs want to have a face to face interview.
In the old days you could start somebody’s processing for welfare eligibility, and therefore Medicaid eligibility before they were released. Now one of the ways of cutting back on costs is to make them come out, make them go through a very detailed process, and then wait 45 days. Well, how does somebody who is truly destitute survive in that period of time.
And then, children lack a stable place to live while they’re parents are away. There’s, you know, in most cases it’s the rare cases where there’s any kind of support mechanism to help the child deal with what they are particularly dealing with. To just sort of beat the drum that I am particularly concerned about, there is really far too little attention in community based corrections and alternative to incarcerations. This whole reliance on jails and prisons as a place to deal with women involved in the criminal justice system is virtually unneeded and unnecessary. And most of these families don’t need to be broken up at all if we could make the shift to doing more of our punishing of people at the same time that we start our restorative work, and do it in the community.
There’s a much longer list of some of the issues that we found as a result of this information gathering process. And that I will spare you right now. What I want to talk about, just to hit the headlines, we also spoke of and listed some of the obstacles preventing productive visitation. Talked about the barriers that women leaving corrections face when they try to reunify with their families. Yeah, well like so what, we all know all of this stuff and what do you do about it?
We tried to engage the people in the room in thinking what they could do about it. Short of completely transforming the world, although I don’t think we should loose that thought, or loose our commitment to doing that. And short of getting a windfall from the legislature which happens very occasionally. And, we began to outline together some possible initiatives that various jurisdictions can take on and they all have certain principles that are reflected in them.
And one is, and I think that this conference is very much in the spirit of this, draw on the participation and the strength of the intended beneficiaries. They’re not you know helping or rescuing those poor people. They’re really efforts that are done in partnership with the parents and the children that they’re intended to be helpful to. They expand the initiatives that we’re proposing, expand the community of interested and stakeholders. They’re absolutely at their core. Is that we have to be talking to more and more people all the time to let them understand why this reliance on incarceration is unnecessarily expensive both in human costs and taxpayers costs. And expensive to as is relates to particularly the moms and the children because sometimes they can only hear the children, they’re ready to write off the parents. These initiatives actively develop new community linkages to churches, community organizations and volunteer groups. They’re culturally relevant. They identify and serve children without stigmatizing them. They provide therapeutic interventions without stigma of therapy. They generate better information on which to make good policy and programmatic decisions.
So, the initiatives that have been formulated in the jurisdictions that we’ve worked in fall into a number of different categories and let’s see if I can…I don’t know if you can see that or not, again it’s in my handout. Um, this is so cool, you all will have to stop by here and see what modern technology offers because I’ve never seen this before. There’s a set of things that we proposed that have to do with fostering and supporting an inner agency commitment to working together. Some of it is as simple as just making a commitment to having regular inter-agency meetings. At the caseworker level to deal with specific cases and at higher levels up to deal with more systematic or systemic issues or more policy oriented issues. Related to that, designate a liaison within each system to act as a facilitator for personnel from the other systems. It can be someone in the prison who will help locate mom or someone in the child welfare system who will help locate the kid or someone in the prison who will like, tell you if you’re going to call and you need to arrange for some special visitation, who will help you do that. To regularly collect information that reveals the overlap between the two systems. Because we all have to keep making arguments to the higher ups about why we should do this and what difference it will make in the narrow concerns that that person carries around with them professionally. So in other words, like how many children in placement do have an incarcerated parent right now? And if you look at that you might look at more specialized caseloads. It might make visitation a little bit easier.
Developing manuals and developing cross-training so that staff and the child welfare system have a basic understanding of the operations demanded of the criminal justice system and vice versa. Just what are the basics of the child welfare system. I mean, I operated in criminal justice and public service for a couple of decades without ever like focusing on oh yeah, child protective, oh yeah, preventive. Let alone permanency planning. I’m discovering that my colleagues in child welfare similarly don’t know about arraignment and bail and parole and the difference between parole and probation. Why that makes any difference in terms of what they’re trying to do with the family.
Those kinds of manuals can be accompanied by a directory of key personnel in each system. You know, like who you need to call if you need to troubleshoot a problem in the child welfare system. Who should you call if you want to arrange a visit at that particular prison. Um, so we in Maryland worked on publishing a directory of correctional facilities that included maps and directions. The hours and rules governing visitation. Phone calls, mail to prisoners, a description of the programs that were available in the prison. Child welfare often can give credit for the parenting program that occurred in the prison. And a contact person within the facility. We suggest that you conduct regular collaborative case conferences and in fact we found that in Maryland child welfare was willing to do discharge planning of women leaving Jessup who had children in care. You know, so there was no criminal justice capacity for doing that, but at least it was a way of plugging that gap for those people. And their frustration was getting those people involved before the women left Jessup. They were loosing them.
For those who are coming in late, once again my name is Tom Alexander. I’m the director of the Family Works program of the Osborne Association based out of New York City. And I work out of two prisons, Sing Sing and Woodburn. This workshop today is entitled Voices of Experience, Children of Prisoners and these two young people are first hand testimony to what young people go through. Back in 1994 Osborne sponsored a workshop called Children left behind. So the first part of our gathering here is going to be viewing that eleven minute workshop and then after that, I’m going to introduce these young folks, ask some brief questions then we are going to turn it over to the wonderful audience here. So, right now we can view that video.
This is a short film about a very special group of children. On the surface they seem like any child. Some like school, some like sports, all of them need love. Although they look like other kids in their class, they are different. The children we are talking about have a parent in jail or prison. “The first time that my dad had went to jail I was five and a half”. “He always says he loves me before we get off the phone or whatever, but how much cause he must not have been thinking about me when he was running around doing what he was doing.” “Even though he was incarcerated, he still provided me with a lot of things that I needed in order to get through from a day to day basis in terms of support, in terms of being self-reliant in terms of understanding that it’s not my fault.” “The detective came to the house and explained to me that my mother was arrested, and I didn’t cry, I just stood there and listened to him like I didn’t believe it, then after he left I broke down”. Song…
With over a million adults in jail or prison in this country there are several million innocent and invisible children of incarcerated parents who receive little or no help from the criminal justice system. Children are the hidden victims. They have done no wrong yet they are sentenced to a different school, to foster care, to a strange part. My brothers and sisters, the handwriting’s on the wall Those children will take their mothers and fathers places unless we do something. For more than a generation, research has consistently indicated a strong relationship between parental incarceration and their children’s future criminal activity. That’s why the Osborne Association, which has been working with prisoners and their families for over 75 years hosted a conference on these children who have been left behind.
It is important not to isolate the fears that they have when they learn that their parents are in jail. The anxiety that they experience. The guilt that they experience. Many children fear that maybe something that I did contributed to the parent being in this particular situation. “My grandmother, she said it was my fault. She told me that if you would have told your mother something she would have stopped. I don’t know how an eight year old child can tell their mother to stop doing this and stop doing that and expect the parent who’s getting high all the time to really stop. I don’t think so.” They will have to bear the stigma that very often comes from going into school and saying where’s your mother and your father. They now have to somehow process this. I’ve seen children, I know you’ve seen them also who have to sort out for themselves what do they say to their friends and their peers. Do they oh, my mother is up at Bedford. My father is in Richmond ” I talked about it when I was real little, like kindergarten, first grade and a lot of kids? parents wouldn’t let them play with me. Um, and so I guess that kind of um, made me stop and I started to lie and say well he’s down South, he’s working or he’s doing different things.” In the United States, it’s estimated that approximately 70% of the total population of women confined in jails and prisons are parents of minor children. Many have no available resources or mean and their children must be placed in foster care.
“One day, somebody called the prison and said that Jackie was placed in foster care. So, all my nightmares became reality. Now there was no way that I knew who the people she was with, how they were going to treat her, what kind of feelings they had about her, was she safe, was her brother with her, were they in the same place where she could protect him and defend him, and what was I going to do? There was nothing I could do. All of a sudden she got lost.” What we have to understand about children is that they if they’re not loved they die. There’s no way around that. I’m saying that they die in terms of psychologically thinking of a child as an innocent carefree, someone who embraces life. That dies. If you look at the statistics it’s 11, 12, 13 year olds who are killers, rapists, who have stopped living in a psychological sense. It’s not because they’ve chosen not to live. The nurturance, the life-giving love has just not been there. So children must love. They have to have love to survive. Because the children of incarcerated parents don’t fit within the specific mandate of various governmental agencies it is up to organizations like the Osborne Association to design model programs that can serve the needs of these children. “It’s been absolutely proven that people with strong family ties are less likely to return to prison than people who have no family connections.
And so, Family Works which is the program that we operate for the children of prisoners is based on the assumption that if we can reunite and maintain communication between prisoners and their children that not only will it help the children but it will assist the prisoners in achieving a real re-integration into society when they return. It teaches parenting to incarcerated fathers in fact or prisoners who are interested in being fathers. And it works with them on maintaining communications with their family. It also operates a children’s center in the visiting room so that when children come to visit the prison, instead of being in the regular prison environment, they’re in a child oriented setting where they can visit with their fathers and have something to do and be kind of encouraged to have a real communication experience. The purpose of the program is both to reduce the trauma for children visiting a prison, but much more importantly to enhance the ability of the incarcerated fathers to really parent from prison. You can be a bad citizen and a good father or a good mother from prison. “He set examples for me by even though he’s being detained that education is important. And, you know that’s where you should put your efforts in.” “My mom always tried to pay attention to…and he contributed a lot to the way I was raised, or as much as he could.” “I cry all the way home, the good byes are the worst. They really are.”
Good afternoon, my name is … I work for the department of corrections. I’m not only here as a specialist but I’m also here as one the caretakers of one of the children that has been left behind. I work, I also have kids of my own, you don’t want to turn down and tell this kid no we can’t go see your mother because I can’t afford it or no, it takes to long for us to go and see your mother. So what do you do you turn around and you try to take these kids half way across the country. From New York State. I never knew the state of New York was so big. I’m traveling with an eight year old kid that wants to go see his mother. So this is why I’m here. Because I know how these children that are left behind feel because I’m one of the caretakers of one of these children that have been left behind and I would like to see things change so these kids don’t have to go through this and the families that are kind enough to have these kids to keep these kids from going into the foster care system don’t have to go through what I have to go through to make sure that my nephew and my sister is going to be alright.” I’d like to leave you with one more of my reading quotes that I think is a very good one. It’s from Dr. Henry Smith who was a teacher at Harvard for years. I don’t know whether he’s still there. He said this, ” It is not our responsibility to bring happiness to our children, that they will seek for themselves. It is our responsibility to recognize our capacity for causing them pain and not to call it by any other name.” Thank you. Song.
***end of video***
Alright, that was part one of our conference and I’d like to go into part two. One face you see if familiar, maybe a little older, hair a little longer but she’s here. I’d like to first introduce Chesa. Chesa is an eighteen year old senior in high school. Getting ready to go to college in September. Presently residing in Chicago. Chesa’s parent’s, both of his parents have been incarcerated since he was fourteen months old. Chesa’s being raised by friends of his parents. He hasn’t been legally adopted but friends of his parents who over the years have even strengthened their friendship have raised this fine young man. He is presently part of the United Model United Nations and they go to different campuses debating and talking about issues relevant to 1998 political issues, social issues, those type of things. Chesa sees his father maybe what, four times a year. He sees his mother maybe six times a year. They’re in different facilities one further away from the other. Both in New York. He resides in Chicago as I mentioned so traveling has been difficult but he makes do. He also has a very strong family base and as I spoke with him earlier he was very brilliant. He said I have four parents, not two. And that’s what he believes and that’s how his life is going.
Secondly I’d like to introduce Emani Davis whom you saw in the tape. Emani is twenty years old and is presently a sophomore at SUNY Newport in New York and her father has been incarcerated since she was six years old. He’s presently residing in a correctional facility in Virginia. By her residing in New York, she sees him as frequently as she can. She just got back a few weeks ago from seeing her father. Her brother Ari was scheduled to come. Ari’s 15 but Ari’s having a little difficulty in school. Not everything is alright all the time so we keep it real. Ari was supposed to be here but we will pray for Ari that Ari’s doing well.
Mr. Davis has been turned down for parole four times. There’s a feeling that he may be turned down each time he goes back but we don’t buy into that that’s how the system works. Um, these are the two young people who graciously came to speak today. I have ten questions that I’d like to ask them. Some of them may be questions that you would want to ask. Once we do that as I mentioned if you have any questions I would respectfully state that you raise your hand. I’ll give numbers and we’ll answer them the best they can.
First question, how would you answer the question that you are different from most children of incarcerated parents? We hear about your successes and some may say you are the exception. How would you answer that question?
I think there’s three major things that separate me and create a different life for me than most kids have. The first thing is that both of my parents are serving life sentences since I was fourteen months old. I think that’s pretty unique. Secondly, my grandparents, my biological grandparents had enough money for them to make it possible for me to visit my parents pretty regularly even though I live in a different state. For me to go to a private school and for me to see a psychiatrist for numerous years. The final thing is that I’ve had a very stable family even though my biological parents have been in prison. Even though I’ve been separated from them since I was fourteen months old. I’ve lived with a great family, two parents, the same parents my whole life, and two brothers, who I’ve been lucky enough to have.
For me, I think that although we are exceptionally lucky, that we are not really the exception. Not all kids whose parents are incarcerated are in foster care and that it doesn’t really change the circumstances. It makes it easier for us to be able to deal with it that we do have people taking care of us that are family of my mother, but it doesn’t make the loss of both of his parents, nor my father any easier.
Question number two, have you ever been afraid that you would end up in prison yourself?
There was a time when I was twelve through fourteen where I think a lot of people worried that I was going to end up in prison. I was wild and angry but I think I knew I wasn’t going. When you grow up in a visiting room that’s usually the type of effect that it had, at least that it had on me. Um, my brother is definitely a different story. We’re a little concerned about him but that hasn’t really been a big concern for me.
I didn’t really think about going to prison that much until recently when I noticed that some of the people in prison with my parents are younger than me. That sort of freaked me out a little bit. I don’t really think of myself as an adult and there’s 17 year old kids in prison with my mother whom I meet in there. Because I look at the kids in school with me and I look at me and their lives and it’s just so different. And a lot of times it’s really unfair that it’s that different. The kids didn’t do anything just sort of random luck, it’s really arbitrary. But when I was younger, I think like Emani said I think a lot of people were worried if I was going to go to prison. I never really worried about it that much myself, no.
Question three: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt you could not say where your parents were and why?
Not that I can remember. I’ve always tried to be as open about that as possible. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t lost any friends. At least not that I know of because of it. People have been very kind about that. For me, the best policy has always been to be open and to be honest. Partly, I’ve been able to do that because my parents were honest with me about things. I’ve found that just in terms of dealing with my own issues, internally, the best way to do that is to talk to other people about it and try to teach other people who don’t know that much about what is going on, how the prison system works, the problems with it, and how it’s affected me to have two parents in prison. It’s worked out very well for me to be able to talk about it.
In my case when I was little I thought I could share it with people so I did and as you may have saw in the video I talked about how I lost friends. Kids parents didn’t want them to be around me and so, I did start to lie about it and said he was working somewhere else. It wasn’t until I think I was old enough to actually be able to handle that kind of rejection that I was able to just kind of deal with it. Like, this is my life and that’s the way it is, and if you can’t be my friend then sorry. It was a problem for a while but now it’s like whatever.
Are you ever angry for your parents going into prison?
Um, yes. I think there’s a period in which in order to get through that with your parents you have to be angry. I think I was nine when, it was around my sixth grade graduation. That really triggered this kind of anger that came out. I stopped speaking to my father for year. I wouldn’t visit him. I didn’t want to talk to him on the phone. Yes. I was very angry. Here’s someone who’s life is supposed to be about his kids and here he was, had other things. He had another agenda and it landed him in prison and it, you know, the end result was that his kids were without him. I was very angry, but we’ve been able to work past that. We have a good relationship now.
Before I can remember, I used to be really angry with my parents. When they were first arrested, I was obviously way too young to remember. Whenever I’d be taken in to see them for visits, I would ignore them. Especially at first and one thing I did was I took it out on myself. I was depressed and I acted out and, when I was younger. There were a few times I asked them, well why did you do that? What were you thinking? What about me? Why’d you have me? You could have done that before you had me. But for the most part, I haven’t been angered. I respect the fact that they stood for what they believed in even though they didn’t do things the way I would have done things, it wasn’t smart what they did, I still respect them for who they are and they’re still great parents. I still love them, so I’ve been able to deal with that pretty well.
How were you treated when you visit? And, how would you change the rules of visitation if you could?
It depends a lot on which prison we’re talking about. I only have experience with the New York State prisons. My mother’s been at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility pretty much since she’s been sentenced. And that’s a great facility. Sister Elaine Roulet whom you’ve seen on the video has done some great stuff there. She’s actually speaking, she has a workshop here that I would suggest you all go to here today. She’s made visits there phenomenal. And she’s helped me and my mother develop a great relationship. I’m not sure that there’s really anything that I’d recommend at Bedford Hills. It’s pretty good the way it is. I don’t have any ideas for how to improve it.
As far as the men’s prison, that’s another story. My dad’s been to just about every New York State Maximum Security Prison, and they’re all pretty bad. Right now he’s in Comstock, Great Meadows Correctional Facility and the visiting room there is almost unbearable. I almost never go to the visiting room. New York State has a somewhat unique visiting program called Trailer Visits for family reunions which enable me to go and spend the entire weekend with my father. We bring our own food in, we’re in a separate part of the prison and that’s great. That’s a really good program. I do that with my mother sometimes as well. But, the visiting room with my father, especially when I was younger is just impossible. You can’t just sit there for hours and not do anything. The other side of the table, virtually no physical contact, no games, no space to walk around, he can’t look at the food. If I want to go get him food, I’m the only one who’s trusted with the money, I have to make decisions about what he’s going to eat and as a little kid, that’s really difficult. So, there’s a lot of changes that need to be made in the visiting rooms. The trailer visit system is pretty good.
My father’s in Virginia and there’s no such thing as trailer visits there. Um, the state of Virginia, he’s been in a bunch of facilities down there, but everyone has been um, I would say close to unbearable. The people are, well, I don’t know, it’s down south so they kind of seem nice but then there’s this other stuff going on where they’re like very um, I think they’re ok with me, they’re ok as we’re going in but for little kids, the searches and things like that are very confusing and scary, and you’re almost made to feel like a criminal because you have to go through things and little kids. You don’t know about beeping and you don’t know about other things and you keep going back and forth and then, you get in and the same people who were smiling at you are talking to your father like he’s a five year old and are constantly reminding him of things he can’t do.
And this is your parent, and this is your parent being treated like a child in front of you. I think it’s very confusing. There’s children centers in some of the facilities in New York, but in Virginia there’s nothing and up until about maybe three years ago, we didn’t even have games. Now we can have cards and different things like that, but when my brother and I were little, just sitting there and writing on a paper towel for six hours was just like, wasn’t going to get it and when you’re like six, having conversations is just not what we’re into doing. So I think the visits are very uncomfortable. If I could change it there would be probably a children’s center in there and you know if we can’t have children visits, you know at least let kids sit on their dads lap or have some kind of, I think that’s what we miss as children is the nurturing, the loving, the holding, and then we’re in there and we’re looking at them and we can’t really touch them.
Lastly, do you think that incarcerated parents should be honest with their children as to that incarceration and were your parents honest with you?
I think that they should be. My parents have always been honest with me and I’ve always been glad of it. That doesn’t mean that they told me every little detail when I was fourteen months old or when I was three or when I was four, but whenever I had questions, I went to them with questions. They always tried to answer honestly. I’ve always appreciated that. And I know I’ve seen a lot of other kids in the prison when I’ve been visiting whose parents aren’t honest with them and I always feel really bad for those kids and I think they’re gonna find out eventually and then it’s sort of like, why’d you do that again? What were you thinking? You know, just like when they got arrested, you have the same questions once again. To me, if you can be honest with your kids and talk about it, that’s the best way to start working through the problems. There’s a lot of issues that kids are going to have to deal with when their parents get put in jail and the best way to deal with them is to be honest and open with each other and talk about it and just start working through them as soon as you can.
Um, my mother always worries, I think when we get to this question because she thinks I’m going to bash her. But I’m not going to do that this time. Um, my parents weren’t exactly honest with me. And I now have been able to see there were a lot of reasons for my own benefit that they weren’t. Um, I think all children are inquisitive. I think I was excessively inquisitive, I was always asking when was daddy coming home and what was going on and why was he there. You know, when kids are small you can’t tell them, you can’t really give them natures of crimes and explain to them time. But I think that my father in his own way either of denial or just trying to make it easier for me, made time promises: I’ll be home by the time you are, and I’ll be home by the time it’s this graduation. And um, I think that whether he knew he was lying or not, kids remember those things and three months to a little kid is a lot different to a 20 year old and that is tomorrow.
When they’re not there tomorrow then you get angry and they lie and um, I understand you’re not always able to be honest but I think that as honest as you can be and to not build a lot of fantasies about the horse that they’re going to buy you or the alligators that they’re going to let you have. That type of stuff they remember and we, they think we forget but we remember and we tell all our friends that we’re going to have a horse when we’re twelve. And we’re twenty and we don’t have a horse and our dad’s not home and so, I think that’s something that’s very important yes, staying honest, as honest as you can be and not building up dreams that you can’t live up to.
Have you ever felt that you’re parents were trying to control you from prison?
Well, I’m daddy’s little girl, so yes, daddy likes to try to control me from prison. Especially when I got to that dating age. That was a big time for him to try to control everything and threaten boys and do all that fathering stuff. I think, and I’m going to let Chesa make this point. I think there does need to be balance about what’s appropriate for them to think that they can control and what’s not. And um, I appreciate the impact and the opinions that he voices to my mother and to me about stuff. It makes me feel like he is parenting from prison and he is involved in the decision making but, I don’t know it can be at certain times a little overwhelming. And you get a little pissed off because they’re not there and they have all these ideas and opinions but, you know, they are your parents.
Parents should try to play an active role in their kid’s life. They need to be there and connect and bond and be part of our lives. It’s also important that they can separate that and that they’re not our immediate and direct caregivers and that they can’t make all of our decisions. My parents have been good at that. I think they’ve had a hard time dealing with my foster parents and they’ve had arguments, they didn’t want me to move to Chicago, they were still in New York. Not wanting me to go to a certain school. They’ve kept me out of those arguments so I don’t know that much about it, but I do know that my mother loves being part of my life and she has intimate relationships with a lot of my friends and she likes me to bring friends to come visit her. And I like doing that. I like having her be part of my life. But, it is important that both of my parents understand, especially at this age, I’m going in my own direction and I’m going to be my own person and they made choices when I was fourteen months old that took them out of that position to make choices for me. And they can’t do that anymore. Even when I was younger they weren’t in a position to control my life. I think one of my psychiatrists helped them understand that a lot. They had sessions with them. My parents have been pretty good about it.
I’d like to go into stage three now. I know there may be some questions from the audience here so I’m going to respectfully ask that we have the two mikes we could line up and any questions. We have two questions, we have three.
Questioner in audience
Hi. I came here because I have a husband that’s incarcerated and my stepson is incarcerated. My husband was incarcerated when he was seventeen and my stepson became incarcerated when he was seventeen. So, a lot of times I feel like, as a stepmother that I missed something here and I did something wrong. And I guess what I need to hear from you is, you’re around his age, how do I help him? His father is unable to because he’s incarcerated. You know, what can I do as a stepparent to really kind of fill the void and break the cycle. To change him from the path that his father went in. I thought I was doing everything right, only I wasn’t.
First, I think you need to not take the blame for that. At seventeen, we’re kids but we’re old enough to take responsibility for our own actions. Will he be coming home soon?
Questioner in audience
Yes, two to four years.
And how long has he been in?
Questioner in audience
He’s only been in about six months.
Oh, so he’s got a little ways. Um, I think that one thing that might be important is that he have communication with his dad. They write
Questioner in audience
Once a month.
Where is this?
Questioner in audience
My husband is in Delaware, but my stepson is in Pennsylvania. They’re going to be allowed to communicate once a month.
That’s important. A lot of what he’s going to need to hear , I think is going to have to come from his father since that is obviously the path he’s kind of on. I’m going to let Chesa handle it while I think about it..
I don’t think there’s an easy answer at all. If there were I don’t think we’d all be here right now. But, you need to try to support him and love him and let him know that he can be who he wants to be if he dedicates himself to it. And, that’s not as easy as it sounds, I know. Just being supportive. Helping him when he gets out. Helping him to do it himself. Helping him accomplish that to me is like the best thing. Don’t beat yourself up over it. You know you’ve done the best job you can do. Nobody’s perfect. And there’s a lot of other things around that are out of your control that have resulted in him being in jail. It’s tragic and a lot of the problems, you have to look at the economic situation in our country. When you look at people like Bill Gates with 39 billion dollars, you just wonder what’s going on and how is that just? We talk about the constitution what principles this country is founded on. A lot of those aren’t consistent. Some of them are, some of them are ridiculous but.
Questioner # 2 in audience
Hi, I work with female offenders in Virginia who often ask what the best way is for them to go about building and maintaining relationships with their children while they’re locked up. I also have visited at the institution where your father was in previously. That’s where I recognized you from, I thought you looked familiar. I have watched you interact with your dad. You do have a close relationship with your dad. I can see that, which is amazing to me in light of the fact that you live in New York, and he’s incarcerated in Virginia. What , how can you help me and how can I help these women. What kinds of things can help me in cementing that relationship?
I think what helped me with my dad was him giving up the, not the I didn’t do it, but this kind of conversation that it wasn’t really his fault kind of thing. I think that he really needed to take responsibility for what he did. And he really needed to just say sorry. Just I messed up and I’m sorry and I love you. And I think that if parents can do that and kind of leave , I taught in a prison in up state New York and it was like some guy was talking about how he sent his kids hundreds of pages about his case and how he’s been framed. And kids don’t need to hear that. Alright, you’re framed, but you’re still doing twenty years so. And I think that if parents kind of separate the case and take the responsibility to be willing to listen to your kids. To be willing to listen to what they need and just say sorry and then kind of work from there. I think that’s key.
Questioner # 2 in audience
And what role did your caregivers have? In helping to facilitate the relationship with the incarcerated parent?
For me my mother was willing to drive nine and a half hours with two small children.
My caregivers were always really understanding and help me plan my life and to sort of have a double life. Live in Chicago and fit all my sports and my schoolwork and my parties in and still make time to go visit my parents and drive me to the airport and pick my up. I’ve been flying alone since I was five. For the four years before that, they were with me on the plane, they were with me driving me all over the place. As for your first question, I think there were a lot of things that I think what Emani said is right. Taking responsibility is the right thing to do. That way you can move on. But there’s a lot of little things that you can do to help create a strong bond between mother and father and children. And, depending on which prison they’re in, everything isn’t possible. Writing letters, my mother has been able to record some stories and songs and poems and books on tape and send me those tapes on a regular basis. Doing projects, when I went to visit my mother we constructed, like a human ear, you know get little kits. Again, it’s not always possible, depending on where you are. Making video tapes for each other, I’ve been able to make video tapes for my parents and show them my house, my friends and my school. Little things like that. Writing letters, talking on the phone, when we could afford it, anything like that is good.
For me my mother was willing to drive nine and a half hours with two small children.
Questioner # 2 in audience
If we could do videotapes in Virginia that would be good, we have been working almost twenty years on private family visits. But you see, we’re still not there.
Questioner # 3 in audience
My question is, I really thank God for you all being here today because I know I will leave here with a burden lifted. Having a legacy of crime as a part of my coming up, my thing is, my question is how much of an influence did your father have on you. How much of an influence does he have? If he doesn’t have much influence where does the influence come from instead?
My father does have a huge influence on my life, on a daily basis. Um, he is in some respects my hero. He is driven me to do a lot. My father was very politically active throughout his life. And I think that a lot of that, my mother was too. I think that a lot of that was instilled in me and it gives me a real pride for my people and a real job to do. A real mission. Um, my father has a huge influence on my life because there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about him. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not missing him. As much as my life has been up till now and as much as it will continue to be an expression of my love and appreciation for him and my mother for allowing me to have the relationship with him. I will continue to do this type of work.
I know for both of my parents, I respect them a lot and they do have influence on me, but like I said earlier, I make my own decisions. I am at a point in my life where I want to be my own person and that doesn’t mean I don’t go to them for guidance. I do, I go to all four of them for guidance all the time. But, I respect my parents a lot. All four of them. I feel really lucky that I have four parents whom I think of as parents. I call them all mom and dad. And I love them all a lot and they’re all brilliant people who have helped me a lot in a lot of different ways, so I’ve been lucky in that sense. I’m not sure that everyone can say that. Having a stable home situation has enable me to deal with a lot of my problems and to work through stuff.
Questioner # 3 in audience
One other question that I need you all to answer for me is should I carry, I have a son who is now incarcerated. And I was, I modeled a riotous lifestyle before him. And uh, just kind of molded him into becoming a criminal. I really feel bad about it, especially now that he’s doing time and here I am, you know, in support groups and therapy and getting it together and he’s in prison. You know, because of what I taught him. And, I need to know – should I feel guilty because during the time that he started justifying his misbehavior because of my past lifestyle, during that time I was seeking to be corrected. And what I need to know is should I continue to carry the burden because it’s had, feeling like wow, I created a monster. Should I continue to carry that burden?
It is heavy, and I think you need to give it up. And I think that you do need to take responsibility for the part that you’ve played but, instead of saying this is my fault, then provide the support, provide that correction now then. But, you didn’t put whatever in his hand that got him in trouble, you know what I mean? There’s plenty of us, two of us that are sitting right here, who could have led that lifestyle. One could say that our parents influenced that because of what they did, but we didn’t choose that, so your son chose that for himself. And that was a conscious decision, and it’s not your burden. You did set a kind of example for him in which he may have thought that was okay, or he may have some way been thinking he was just like daddy, so now I think your only responsibility is to try to provide that support and correctness now with him.
I agree with what Emani said. You need to sort of move on, and you could have done things differently but dwelling in the past isn’t going to help your son right now. And while it’s important to take responsibility for mistakes you made in raising him, nobody’s perfect. No parents are perfect and help him get through what he’s going through right now. And don’t worry so much about what you did in the past and try to help him and support him right now. Don’t beat yourself up over it. You need to be worry about him and beating yourself up isn’t going to do that for him.
Questioner # 4 in audience
You guys have been so wonderful at counseling adults on what you can see are obvious concerns. I wonder what kind of advice do you give or would you give to children who find themselves in the positions that you’ve been in.
Like everything else, it depends on the situation, you know, every situation is completely unique and I try to tell the kids be strong, have faith in yourself, be who you want to be. You need to sometimes step outside of what’s around you. I know a lot of kids for whom it’s difficult. It’s a lot easier to get guns and drugs than it is to get books and clothes. It’s a hard situation to be in. Like I said, I’m lucky enough not to be in that situation, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still use some of the tactics that I’ve used or that Emani’s used. And I don’t know for me, the most important thing was pulling myself together and saying to myself, all right, look Chesa you’ve got to be somebody, you’ve got to pull yourself together, and you’ve got to control yourself and do what you want to do. And for me, that’s what I’ve always used, just think real hard, concentrate on something, make a goal and force yourself to accomplish it.
Questioner # 4 in audience
So goal setting is an important strategy?
For me, yes.
I think for me a lot of what it ended up being was that I started seeing that people expected me to get in trouble so as kind of ha, ha I did it, I did it. And so, I think that my real advice to other kids though was something that I didn’t have. I didn’t have other kids growing up, so I felt very alone and my brother is four and a half years younger than me, so when I was six, my brother was two, and we weren’t having conversations and sharing feelings. My brother is very withdrawn anyway so I think that getting together with other kids and being able to share that is very important. I agree with him about setting goals because there’s a lot of kids that can use this. I did for a while. I’m not going to school because I miss my dad. And I’m not doing my work because my dad’s in jail. It doesn’t work, but kids can use that. I think if they can see that, see kids like us that yeah, it can be like this and we can go to college and we can still overcome that. To keep going and not weigh that against you and keep going.
Questioner #4 in audience
Thanks, I think you’ve inspired all ages.
Questioner #5 in audience
Thank you for being here today. My question is, I work with inmates, we do counseling at the agency that I work with. A lot of times inmates are going through a difficult time because they’re children are going through a difficult period where their children are going through that period where they’re angry and they don’t want to visit, kind of like what was described. What advice would you give to an inmate who is in that situation, as far as waiting, they’ve made attempts to reach out, their child is not ready, what advice would you give to them?
I think what my father did with me and what worked, at first he was not allowing it, but then he just let me have that time. I think that a lot of these brothers, it does make them very angry and they are defensive about it and the children have no right to do this. But we do have a right to do that. And it’s actually, I think healthy for us if we get through that now. Because I’m sure these kids love their dads and I’m sure they’ll come around. But, if the father’s don’t back off a little bit and allow them to have that space, the anger is just going to grow. They will just get more and more angry, and the father’s can actually create a situation in which they will have no relationship with their children. Just wait it out I think.
You can’t force kids to have a relationship with their parents, you need to give the kids space and time and you can have the father just say to them, look I’m always going to be there for you. I want to have a relationship with you and I want to love you and whenever you need me, I’ll be here, but that’s all you can do. Especially when the parents are in prison, they’re not in the position to say, you need to come see me, you need to write me. They need to not try to do that, because all trying to force the kids to see them or have a relationship with them is going to do is drive them farther away. It’s going to work against them for the most part.
Questioner #5 in audience
During that time would it be helpful for them to continue to write as you said to let them know that they’re there when you’re ready?
I think so, I think keeping up contact, the kids can open the letters or throw them out or whatever but the parents should continue to pour affection on them, not in a way that’s smothering but in a way that let’s the kids know they’re there and they want to be part of thier life, I think that’s great.
Questioner #5 in audience
Questioner #6 in audience
I have also a question about anger. I gather that both of you for quite a number of years when you were young were in this situation. If that’s the case you can hopefully help me. How angry were you at society and the criminal justice system and the law enforcement systems and so forth for what had happened. Even recognizing perhaps that your parents were perhaps to blame. Did you remember being angry and are you still angry?
I don’t know if angry is exactly the words I would use to describe my feelings. I have a lot of strong feelings about society and about the problems our society has and how they cycles that we keep putting younger and younger kids in prison for longer and longer amounts of time. But because of the nature of my parent’s crime and who they are, I haven’t been so angry at society. I know they made choices and they made mistakes and I think there are a lot of improvements that need to be made in this country and in this world, but I don’t blame society so much for what happened to my parents.
Questioner # 6 in audience
Even when you were young you didn’t?
I don’t think so, not that I remember.
For me, I’m still angry. Some of it has to do with my father being in prison, but some of it has to do with being a young person in America today. I think that we have serious problems. I think that our criminal justice system doesn’t work, and I don’t think it’s fair, and I think, I have a personal issue with law enforcement. I don’t think the way to get kids to respect police officers is to arrest parents in front of children. That’s not what happened with me, but it is what happened with some other kids in the video. I think that their judgment is a little off. I don’t think that I necessarily blame them. I think my father was 100 percent responsible for what happened, but there may have been things that happened before and there may have been demonstrations of behavior that we see growing up that I think are inappropriate and I think keep me pretty angry.
Questioner # 6 in audience
Just a follow up question. Where does forgiveness come into play in regard to this? For instance, a parent that has maybe made some mistakes have a way through forgiveness be restored to society quicker or do you feel that forgiveness is even an issue at all?
To forgive society?
Questioner #6 in audience
Well, no I was thinking of society to forgive them. Would it help to have society to be more merciful and forgiving? Would it help you personally to be forgiving yourself? If you felt society had treated your parents in a more merciful point of view?
I think yes, it would be helpful, I think it’s a dream that may never come true. It seems like the criminal justice system or prisons are getting worse. Yes, I think they forget they’re sentencing entire families and children. There’s not just this one guy who committed this crime. We all are doing twenty years. We’ve all done fourteen years. He’s done all his time with his parents. So yes, I think they forgive who’s involved yes I do think they should be more merciful. And I think that people change. My father is 56 years old. I really don’t understand his threat to society right now but, yes I think Chesa can address that too.
I agree with what Emani said. The long sentences just don’t make sense. I know a lot of people in prison, and most of them are really good people, my parents among them. Both my parents have done a lot of work educating people in prison about aids my mom has written books about being a mother from prison. There’s no reason for either one of them to be incarcerated right now. There’s just no reason. It’s a waste of taxpayer money and my parents could be contributing to society and there are a lot of other people in prison who could be contributing to society. We’re using prisoners as scapegoats and they’re to blame for a lot of our problems and that just creates more problems. We don’t have that much money in this country that we need to be throwing it around and wasting it keeping good people locked up. It’s really tragic.
Questioner #6 in audience
I should ask an answer for this instead but I’ll ask a question instead. Has it made it difficult for people who have wronged you as you have grown up especially for you to have a relationship with them or to forgive them? You don’t have to answer that question but it’s funny how things relate sometimes.
Could you repeat that?
Questioner #6 in audience
In other words, as you have been concerned that there has been a lack of forgiveness with society, with your parents, has it also interfered with your relationships with people, your own peers and so forth when they’ve wronged you. Are you quick to restore those relationships or has it made it difficult for you since society doesn’t forgive your parents for you to forgive others that you are peers with’
So are you asking us if we are able to forgive others because there’s a lot to forgive’
Questioner #6 in audience
Has it made it difficult to forgive because society has prevailed to forgive?
I don’t associate a direct relationship with my ability to forgive, although probably subconciously it has had some affect on me. I think of myself as a somewhat forgiving person though.
Questioner #7 in audience
Both of you are doing a great job. One question I wanted to ask, when you were younger did you ever take responsibility for your parent being in prison’
I think there were times when I blamed myself. But more common for me was to not take responsibility for things that I did. When I would get into trouble, when I would throw chairs around the house, and you know, scream and you know curse at my adoptive mother I wouldn’t take responsibility for that and I would blame other people. I don’t think I took responsibility for my parents being in prison either.
I would tend to agree with that. My mother may answer differently but I don’t remember really doing that and I think it’s because other family members were very good very early on about making sure I didn’t do that.
Questioner #7 in audience
It was really interesting because I work with children who have a parent in prison and when I go to a homes where the parent is not honest one of the things it’s always important to be honest with the kids because a lot of times kids take that responsibility for a parent. I was in a workshop earlier that indicated that. So I thought let me ask them.
Questioner #8 in audience
Thank you for sharing so openly. I have a quick question, lots of time we focus on the negatives and I was just wondering if the experience that you’ve had in your life has brought you some strengths that are directly associated with this’
Without a doubt. I think it would probably be hard for me to explain, but having parents in prison has opened me up to new worlds. I have met a lot of new, different kinds of people. I have had a lot of different experiences than anybody my age. How many kids my age are speaking in front of 60 to 70 people about their life.
Questioner #8 in audience
I did feel you were an old soul Chesa
Thank you but it’s a different life, so of course it’s had an affect on me. I think I’m good at solving other people’s problems and putting myself in other people’s shoes. I think I’m very self reflective and self analytical and self critical and I strive to complete my goals and to improve myself and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that my parents are in prison. Also, I always have had a need to create stability around me and to sort of have a schedule and a plan and be very organized and keep everything in order and know what’s going on. I think that, there’s a pretty clear connection to the fact that when I was fourteen moths old, everything that was stable in my life was ripped away.
I think that although I have this kind of fear a lot of people leaving me, that it has made me much stronger and that I may even have a, sounds weird, but a better relationship with my father now because it’s been so strained. It’s been so up to us to really kind of pull together to make it happen. I think it also allows us to not take a lot of things for granted. I’m in college now. My roommate has both parents and they have this, I don’t know if it’s a lovely marriage, but she’s just like, I hate my dad because he won’t buy me a car and I don’t want to go out to dinner with my dad. A lot of things, just catch me and I’m just like, you don’t know what you’ve got kid. I think it’s having an appreciation for what we’ve got.
Questioner #9 in audience
I’d like to commend you and your parents for the well adjusted individuals you appear to be, and I’m curious Emani, does your brother have the same relationship you do?
Well, they’re both men, so they talk a lot more about things my father is not comfortable discussing with me. But yes and no. My brother is younger and so I think that I have a slight memory of living with my father around three or four. I kind of know what it looks like for him to be out, and my brother doesn’t know that at all. My brother was just a baby. I think that their relationship is getting stronger, but my brother is getting more difficult. I think that where my father and I have been able to be friends, my fathers really having to play a very hard kind of father role right now. I think that my father has with both of us, a very strong loving, I know my brother can go to him with anything, and that is like our relationship, but I think that there is a little bit more of the discipline stuff going on right now. But, they’re definitely close.
Questioner #9 in audience
Do you attribute your brother’s present behavior with any kind of anger at your father for not being there?
My brother is fifteen and he will be sixteen in a few weeks. And I think he is angry at the world. I think that he blames everybody else for my father being there kind of thing.
Questioner #10 in audience
I was wondering if you observed through other people that are in your, in the same field you are in, I know everybody deals with incarceration of a family member differently, is the severity of the crime, does it have something to do with how well someone can cope with forgiving or dealing with anger, is there a correlation with the severity of the crime and how quick you are to forgive?
I think it does play a big part of that to me is simply the fact that you commit a really serious crime, you’re going to be in jail for longer, you’re going to be in prison for longer and that puts more of a strain on your relationship with your family and the people on the outside. I think that’s a bigger part of it than what the crime is. I know for me, that I don’t think it would really matter what my parents did. I respect them as people, they’ve made a mistake. I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes. We all do, they made a really big one and a really stupid one, and I know I have too. Everybody does, so
I think that with some of the other people that I was with on the last panel, one of the girls, it was drugs. I think that she had a lot less permission for that, whereas, when some of the crimes are political, children can feel more proud of that and understand that a little better. When it’s things like drugs or robbery, different things like that, I think that it’s harder because we’re kind of feeling like well that was dumb, you know. I think that , there are different things we associate with being kind of alright. He’s right, the end result if that you’re not there so either way, it’s kind of difficult.
Questioner #11 in audience
From a kids point of view, what advice would you offer the caregivers that would, the caregiver that would not allow the kids to communicate with the parents that are in jail?
That’s difficult to answer. To me, communicating with my parents in jail has been a big part of my life and even having my brothers, who aren’t my biological brothers have a relationship with my parents in jail has been important. I would say to the caregivers, make the biological parents a big part of the kid’s life. That’s the best way to deal with it. If they’re going to know that they’re parents are in jail, and not be able to see them, to me that’s a really difficult thing to deal with. I would say let them see them. I understand there are certain circumstances that for whatever reason the caregiver might think it’s better for the kid not to see the parent. If they are going to do that, I don’t know, it’s difficult. The only thing I can say is to try to talk to the kid a lot about the decision. Talk with them, explain to them why they shouldn’t see their parents now. If you don’t want them to see them have some contact. Have them write letters or phone calls or whatever you can do. To me, having some relationship with the parents is very important especially at younger ages, but.
For me, unless the children would be in some type of danger, I can’t ever see that being an appropriate solution. I don’t want this to sound wrong, but I almost don’t see it as their right to deny children the right to deny children the right to know or to see their parents. If a child then chooses, I don’t like going, I don’t like being in the car for five hours, or I don’t like…if that’s the child’s choice, but I don’t really, I know kids who haven’t been allowed to see their parents and I know that there’s a completion process that we kind of go through where we have to make peace with this that they’re not able to have and I think it stays like a very open wound for a very long time. My advice would be I don’t think that’s a very good idea. I don’t know the circumstances, but I don’t think I’d ever, unless the child was really in danger, support that.
Questioner #11 in audience
In working with those kids, it’s often that I’ve heard children say they’re not allowed to communicate with heir parents because the caregiver, the grandmother or caregiver, can’t. I don’t know how to advise the caregiver into allowing that kid to communicate with his parents. I don’t what right I have in telling them you need to let this child see his parents or communicate with his parents. It’s very difficult for the kid, you know working with the kid in a group because they are not able to express anything about their parents because they’re not able to communicate with their parents so I didn’t know what advice I can give these caregivers into letting these kids see their parents.
I might want to let them know that those kids are going to be really angry one day. It’s going to come back on them. Eventually they’re going to figure out someone is denying them this and has been denying them all that time, and I think that they’re going to be pretty upset.
Two things, I think if you sit down and talk to the caregivers, and you have to be careful not to be condescending and not to try to invade, because it is their life and it is their decision to make ultimately, but if you can help them see that by allowing the kids to have a relationship with the parents, that that’s a different thing than saying what the parents did was right. Some people might get that confused. If you can say to the caregivers, it’s important for the kid’s sake. You may have your issues, a lot of times the caregivers are relatives of the people in prison and they have their own issues and their own hostilities whatever, their own problems with what that person did, with what the person incarcerated did, but you can say look , we’re talking about the kid here and what’s best for the child. Letting them have relationship with their incarcerated parents in no way says it’s okay to be in prison but it’s going to help them develop and help keep them out of prison ultimately. You can monitor the relationship and if you feel like it’s harming the kid, you’re in a position to stop it. But if you just sit down and talk to the caregiver and be rational with them and try to put it in the perspective of helping the kid, that’s the best thing to do.
Questioner #12 in audience
First, I’d like to say that I’ve really enjoyed listening to both of you, and that for young people you all have some extraordinary insights into your own lives. I’m just thoroughly impressed. I know people twice your age that don’t seem to have your insight. You obviously have done a lot of work in terms of looking at yourselves and your lives. I was just wondering what if any impact you’ve seen the fact that your parents, and in your case, Emani your fathers, what impact has that had on your assuming you are, assuming you’ve had intimate relationships, what impact have you seen on your lives?
With me, like I said because I’m daddy’s little girl, there have been servere threats from my father about boyfriends. I think he’s partly joking and partly he really didn’t want me to date till I was like 35. A little bit he had to give up. I think that for reasons my father’s not completely responsible for, but a lot he is, I have, it was very hard for me to trust men for a long time. I did date men with criminal records for a while, that were in and out of prison, it was I guess familiar to me, and part of it was probably rebelling. When my mom said that wasn’t a good idea, I said well you know your husband is in jail and you’ve visited him, so a lot of that went on. Now, the person that I probably plan to spend the rest of my life with has no criminal record, and when I look at that now, there’s no way that I would ever involve myself with somebody who’s interested in that. I’m not trying to spend anymore time than I have to in visiting rooms.
I think my parents have always wanted to be a part of my life and be really involved and it’s been difficult because a lot of the things I do they can’t be part of. But, I do what I can to have them be part of my life. I like having them involved. I like having my friend go visit my parents with me and stuff like that. It’s difficult when they’re in prison, there are a lot of things they just can’t do. They need to, that’s an issue they need to recognize and come to terms with. There are some things they are going to be able to do and take part in in my life and there are going to be other things that they’re not. I can try to keep them in touch and tell them what goes on, but when I go on vacation with my family and I go to a movie with my friends, they can’t be part of that. That has to do with decisions they made when I was fourteen months old.
Unfortunately time is up, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that the two young people you see here are representative of many young people. They may be viewed as the exception, but I would respectfully state to you that given the same nurturing, same guidance, the same understanding. I would like for Emani’s mother to stand. This is Emani’s mother who is also the Executive Director of the Osborne Association. I love these young people. I hope that they have helped you and that they were able to give you some information to take back as you work with young people. All young people have the capacity, have the ability, have the brilliance to be like my two adopted children here. We thank you for taking part in this, I know she has to take a train to New York and he has to take a plane to Chicago so they’ll be around for maybe a half-minute. We thank you and we’ll be here today and tomorrow. Have a great rest of the conference.
Ann Adalist-Estrin is director of the Parent Resource Association in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. She is a member of the board of directors of Family and Corrections Network and consultant in the field of families of offenders.
Mary Alley is the parenting program coordinator at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska.
Nadine Anderson and her family have been doing time with her husband for more than 21 years now. They have two sons who have grown up in the visitation park, never having played ball with their dad. They are now young men in their twenties. She is a 39 year old native Floridian.
Donna Bailey is currently the assistant director of Substance Abuse and Correctional Services for Volunteers of America Texas. Her office is located in Arlington, Texas. She is responsible for overview and quality assurance in three large community correctional centers located in Dallas/Fort Worth area. Donna has been with VOA-TX for 16 years in various capacities. From 1983 to 1986, Donna was the program coordinator of the Mothers, Infants Together program, and now is responsible for the promotion of the program throughout the country.
Sandra Barnhill is executive director of Aid to Incarcerated Mothers in Atlanta, Georgia and a member of the board of directors of Family and Corrections Network.
Daniel J. Bayse has over 20 years of experience with inmates and their families. The author of several books, research studies, and programs on inmate family relationships, including As Free As An Eagle; The Inmate’s Family Survival Guide. Bayse is the founder and executive director of Prison Family Foundation.
Moureen Bish has been a caseworker and program director with Families In Crisis, Inc. for ten years. She has extensive experience designing and providing counseling and support services to criminal justice populations and their families. Moureen has earned a degree in teaching from the University of the West Indies and a degree in psychology from Central Connecticut State University.
Cybil Bomberger has been the family counselor for the SCI Muncy Parenting Program for the past three years. Her previous employment with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has given her broad experiences working with families. Cybil’s parenting groups focus on parent/child bonding and techniques to not only strengthen ties during incarceration but also to prepare the inmate mother for reintegration into the family unit upon release.
Lisa Brett is director of support services with Families In Crisis, Inc. She received her BA in sociology from Fairfield University and went on to receive her MSW from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in 1994. She has been employed with Families in Crisis, Inc. since May 1994.
Catherine Bruggeman is the coordinator of the Correctional Outreach Program at the Visiting Nurse Association in Omaha, NE. She has had extensive experience in all aspects of community health nursing including maternal/child, school nursing, geriatrics, home health care, and management of communicable diseases.
Candace B. Burch has been innovative throughout her career in the field of education and corrections. She began her career in education in education in 1976. She developed the first Pre-K class for handicapped students in Jackson County, FL. She was awarded for Jackson County’s Outstanding Developmental Preschool Program in 1988. In 1993 Mrs. Burch began a career with the Department of Corrections where she developed the Correction’s plan for the delivery of special education services to Florida inmates as required by federal law. Since 1995, Candace Burch has been the bureau chief of Academic and Special Education of the Florida Department of Correction’s Office of Education and Job Training. She has enabled the department to provide educational programs and services for prisoners.
Ila Waite-Burns graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1976. She moved to the beaches of Florida to teach special education. She taught the emotionally handicapped, severely emotionally handicapped and specific learning disabilities for 14 years. During this time she was a public school teacher and a behavior and program specialist for Inner Harbor Psychiatric Hospital. In 1996, she completed her master’s degree in Counseling and Rehabilitation Services. She is currently the program specialist for the Florida Department of Corrections’ Even Start and the Comprehensive Literacy Program.
Carol Burton, MSW worked as a prevention advocate and clinical social worker for the past 10 years. She is director of Project S.E.E.K., serves as treasurer for Family and Corrections Network board of directors, 98-99, chair of FP/FS, for Genesee Co. Strong Family Safe Children Collaborative, and state conference coordinator of Michigan Association of Black Social Workers.
Karen Bush has been the director of Project IMPACT for the past two years. Prior to her work with IMPACT, she held various clinical and administrative positions in the social services field. Her long-term interests in serving women, children and families have been an integral part of her career.
Sarah Carlson has been employed by the Washington Department of Corrections since 1971. She currently works as a community corrections officer (probation and parole officer) in Shelton. She has a bachelor of arts degree from the Evergreen State College. She is a past member of American Correctional Association and Washington Correctional Association. She is a member of Western Correctional Association and involved in Family Focus, Victim Awareness Education and a MRT facilitator. Her hobbies include crafts, quilting, reading and participating in community activities.
Treva Carroll, M.A. is a deputy probation officer, supervisor, Central Juvenile Hall, Los Angeles County Probation Department. The Los Angeles County Probation Department provides comprehensive assessments, high quality residential care and related services for minors declared wards of the juvenile court and ordered suitably placed outside their home by the juvenile court.
Ruth Cashmere is regional manager for Centerforce in San Quentin, California – a non-profit organization which provides direct services to the families of inmates incarcerated in California state prisons. She is a consultant, trainer, researcher, and advocate.
Elizabeth Cerneach is the director of School Health Programs, Sarpy & Douglas County Community Health Nursing. She is active in Corporate Wellness Programs, Shelter Nurse MCH/MEN Grant Programs, Prenatal and Childbirth Education Program, & Health Maintenance Centers for the Elderly, Family Friends Program, and the Correctional Outreach Program.
Karen V. Chapple has become a recognized leader in alternatives to incarceration, which maintain the family unit. She graduated with a master’s degree in counseling from the University of South Florida and has over twenty years experience in program development and management of non-profit organizations. Ms. Chapple is the statewide CEO of Summit House, which operates three residential alternatives to incarceration for mothers of small children.
Ann Craig is a parenting educator at Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Eagleville, Pennsylvania.
Sharon J. Darcy is executive director of Pathfinders of Oregon in Portland, Oregon.
Emani Gaynes Davis is a sophomore at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Ari Davis, Emani’s brother, is 15 and in the 10th Grade at White Plains High School, White Plains, NY.
Barbara J. DeJong is the Women’s Support Group facilitator with Prison Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Teresa Fitzgerald is executive director of Hour Children in Long Island City, New York.
Donna Flick has been involved in the Project IMPACT program for five years. She began as a part-time assistant, and she is now the full-time center coordinator. Donna brings a lot of enthusiasm to her position and is dedicated to making every visit between mother and child a special one.
Patrice Gaines is a reporter for the Washington Post. She is author of Laughing in the Dark: From Colored Girl to Woman of Color—A Journey from Prison to Power. “Gaines started her adult life as an unwed black mother in prison for drugs: there she would start a long journey back to become a person to be proud of; sparked by a desire to be a good mother for her newborn daughter. Gaines writes of being a black child in America, of lacking power, and of being a black woman influenced by negative forces. She charts a dangerous and common course of diminished strengths, and a strong return from a dead-end life.” – Midwest Book Review
Deanna Garrett experienced her eldest son being imprisoned in 1982 for two and a half years. During that time there was no support in the area for families of inmates. Deanna met Verna McFelin in 1989 and became a volunteer for the organization as a committee member, social worker, secretary, group facilitator and is now financial administrator and president of PILLARS. Currently Deanna is a contract tutor and group facilitator of prison programs with male inmates (remandees and sentenced).
Elizabeth Gaynes is executive director of the Osborne Association in New York, New York.
Pauline Geraci is the Literacy Three teacher at Stillwater Correctional, Minnesota and has also taught for the Florida Department of Corrections. She has a B.A. in Elementary Education, an M.A. in Reading Education and is currently pursuing an Educational Doctorate in Educational Policy and Administration. Pauline has presented at several international corrections conferences as well as conferences in Florida and Minnesota. She has also written two grants for projects within a prison setting. In addition, Pauline has been selected as Teacher of the Year for New River Correctional in Florida, and Stillwater Correctional in Minnesota.
Jayne Goldstein has been an associate dean of instruction and student services at Rio Salado College for nineteen years. She has been responsible for college prison programs for six years. Currently she works out of Perryville Prison in Phoenix Arizona which houses 2,700 medium and maximum male and female inmates.
Creasie Finney Hairston is the dean of the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. She is an offender-family researcher and advocate. Her major interest is social welfare policies and program that impact the lives of poor women and other oppressed groups. Her articles appear in leading academic journals and in publications for general audiences.
Jane Nelson Hall works at Wrightsville Youth Development as a special education teacher. Prior to this, she worked for fifteen years at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville. For eleven of the fifteen years, she worked as mental retardation specialist, developing and implementing a program for adult inmates with mental retardation. The program was created as part of the Georgia Department of Corrections’ response to a class action lawsuit. It was selected as a model program by the National Institute of Corrections in 1989. She became a special education teacher at Georgia State Prison in 1992. Her job was abolished in 1997. She holds an Ed.D. in Special Education from George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University.
Merry Hanson’s professional background includes teaching at the University of Portland, project director for the initiation of 911 for the City of Portland, and owner and president of Workforce Development Center, a curriculum development and training company. Dr. Hanson is the author of Pathfinders, a 180-200 hour psychological skill building/cognitive restructuring curriculum. Pathfinders is currently used in every prison in the State of Oregon, in prisons in Minnesota, Idaho, Kentucky and Virginia, alternative schools in Oregon, California, Idaho and Washington and in Juvenile Detention Centers in Washington and California. In conjunction with Sharon Darcy, she founded Pathfinders of Oregon, Inc., in 1993. She is director of training and operations for this organization and operates Workforce Development Center.
Nancy J. Harm is an associate professor at the School of Social Work, University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Prior to obtaining her doctorate in 1989, Dr. Harm spent 20 years in direct social work practice, including director of a domestic violence program, correctional administrator and practitioner in the mental health field. Her teaching areas are practice, gender dynamics, and domestic violence. Her research interests are women offenders and domestic violence.
H. Jennifer Hartman is assistant superintendent, educational programs, Los Angeles County Office of Education, the nation’s largest regional education agency. Dr. Hartman’s agency serves L.A. County, the most populous county in the nation, with more than 9 million residents, including 1.5 million students in 81 school districts.
Kathy Hessler has been an English teacher in Vermont for 26 of the last thirty-one years she has lived in her adopted state. She has a variety of teaching experiences including junior high school, high school, and a community college. For the last 11 years she has been at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, Vermont, where she teaches English review classes, basic reading and writing classes, and social studies classes. Her undergraduate degree is from Eastern Michigan University and her master’s degree is from St. Michael’s College in Vermont.
Anita Hufft is a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist and nurse educator whose specialty is forensic psychiatric nursing and correctional health care for women. She is the program evaluator for the Kentucky Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Program and provides consultation, staff training, and nursing health promotion services to the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women. She is dean of the Division of Nursing, Indiana University Southeast and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
Avraham Hoffmann is founder and Director General of Israel’s Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority (PRA). He has developed innovative rehabilitation programs for inmates and their families and has published articles on most of them. Among these programs are the Students-Inmate Shared Housing Program for young released inmates, and the Triangular Program: Treating the Inmate, his children and wife.
Ed Hostetter is director of research for Prison Fellowship Ministries in Washington, DC and a member of the board of directors of Family and Corrections Network.
Ann Jacobs is executive director of the Women’s Prison Association, a nonprofit agency that provides advocacy and direct services on behalf of women in the criminal justice system. Ms. Jacobs worked for four years in the Office of the Mayor of New York City on alternatives to incarceration and a range of public safety issues. Her background includes adult and juvenile justice and pretrial services.
Toni Johnson has been a social work practitioner for over 20 years. She is currently on the faculty of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, in Austin, TX. Her responsibilities include supervising a unit of social work interns serving parolees and their families through the Family Support Program for Ex-offenders. She has presented nationally and internationally on the topic of social work in the criminal justice system. She received her bachelor’s degree from Cameron University in Lawton, OK and her master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She is licensed by the state of Texas as a Licensed Master Social Worker with Advanced Clinical Practitioner recognition.
Denise Johnston is the founding director of the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents. She has developed and conducted a wide variety of service programs for and research projects on prisoners and their children.
Jo Jorgensen has been the director of college programming at the Arizona Center for Women, a minimum security prison in Phoenix, Arizona, for the past nine years. Prior to this, her community experience included ten years as a parole officer and after care counselor. Her “Parenting at a Distant” program recently received the American Association of Women in Community Colleges award for outstanding programs for women.
Valdimir Joseph is the founder and executive director of Inner Strength, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Through encounters with homelessness and gang life, he founded Inner Strength to help young men reach their full academic and social potential.
DonnaMarie F. Kaminsky is an international lecturer, trainer, educator and author with years of insightful, versatile experience in theology, religious education and family ministry. Her background includes working with community leaders, teens and children in a multitude of socio-economic environments across the United States and in several foreign countries. She came to the U.S. Probation Office specifically to research and coordinate a program that would help the families of federal prisoners. She developed the Family Bridges program (which is still in development). DonnaMarie is currently developing a similar type program in the U.S. Probation Office under the title of Pre-Release Services.
Pam Katz, Esquire, is an independent consultant. She previously worked as staff and as consultant to Women’s Prison Association. Ms. Katz specializes in the law as it relates to child welfare and welfare reform. She is the author of “Breaking the Cycle of Despair” and other publications that outline more effective strategies for dealing with mothers who are involved in the criminal justice system.
Marie Kenyon, J.D. is a member of Mothers and Children Together, a group who advocate on behalf of incarcerated mothers and their children. This includes lobbying at both state and national levels, conducting children’s trips to the prisons, educating the community on the issues and conducting an annual rally in cooperation with Justice Works.
Debra Key is the executive director of Parents and Children Together (PACT), Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, a non-profit agency committed to preserving and strengthening families in crisis due to incarceration. PACT provides parenting programs at FMC-Fort Worth; FMC-Carswell; FCC-Coleman; USP-Atlanta; and TDCJ. She has authored two books, “Parents Behind Bars” and the “SKIP Curriculum for Elementary Age School Children”. She also co-authored “A Child Serving Time on the Outside.” She is often a guest editor for the Family & Corrections Network Report.
Ann Kinkor, M.A. is coordinator for parent education, educational programs (special education, juvenile court and community schools, alternative education), Los Angeles County Office of Education. She believes and supports research study findings that schools which support strong comprehensive parent/school/community involvement efforts are more likely to produce students who perform better than identical school programs.
Shirley R. Klein is an associate professor in the Family Sciences Department at Brigham Young University. Her scholarly areas of interest include understanding and strengthening at-risk families and providing educational opportunities for strengthening families. For the past 15 years she has supervised university students as family life educators at the Utah State Prison.
Keith A. Koenning is chief probation officer for the United States District Court Northern District of Ohio. He recently authored “Supervised Release Violators and the Comprehensive Sanctions Center in the Northern District of Ohio,” for the Federal Sentencing Reporter and co-authored “The Comprehensive Sanctions Center in the Northern District of Ohio” for Federal Probation.
Barbara Goldenberg Libov is a licensed clinical psychologist from St. John’s University. Dr. Libov developed and implemented the Abuse Treatment and Prevention Program at St. Mary’s Children & Family Services, a residential treatment program for adolescent sexual offenders. As clinical coordinator, Dr. Libov conducts group, individual and family therapy, supervises trainees, and teaches a biweekly seminar on adolescent sex offenders.
Beth McLean, M.S.S.W., L.S.W., has been with Philadelphia Society for Services to Children since 1984, as both a social worker and supervisor. She has been the program supervisor for KIDS’n’KIN Muncy since the program began in November 1991. Ms. McLean has previously presented on the topic of children of incarcerated mothers at the Family Resource Coalition conference.
Verna McFelin’s husband was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 1983. Verna was left with four young children and no one to turn to. Moving from one end of New Zealand to the other and back again to be near him — “eight moves and 10 school uniforms in five years” was one change. Coping with the anger, grief, shame and loneliness was another. Verna’s own experience convinced her of the need for an organization which would support families who have a loved one in prison. In 1988, she set up PILLARS (Prison Inmates, Loved ones Linked As one to Renew Strength) in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Joan Mohler has been a classification counselor for 3 years, formerly a unit officer (5 years) and unit Sgt.. (5 years) at a male medium custody institution. She served as co-facilitator of Family Focus Group for 3 years and facilitator for MRT for 3 years. She is active in church, serving as organist and Sr. Warden.
Marilyn Moses has been a social science program analyst with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), U.S. Department of Justice since June 1991. In 1994 Ms. Moses was recognized by the American Correctional Association with their “Best in the Business” award for creating the “Girl Scouts Beyond Bars” program and her work on behalf of children whose parents are in the criminal justice system. Ms. Moses is currently the chair of the National Working Group on Children, Families and the Criminal Justice System.
Jim Mustin is the president and founder of Family and Corrections Network. As Virginia Coordinator for REAL JUSTICE, Jim is developing restorative justice conferencing programs for youths in four Virginia localities. He recently retired from the Virginia Department of Corrections where he worked as a family counselor in the Virginia Beach Juvenile Court and a training supervisor for offender treatment programs at the Academy for Staff Development. He lives with his wife, Ellen in Palmyra, Virginia.
Gretchen Newby is the program director, Friends Outside National Organization where she is involved in several programs: Las Comadres Program, a unique state licensed foster care program for babies born to women incarcerated in state prison;, Creative Conflict Resolutions, an intensive group rehabilitation experience for violent offenders in state and federal prison, and for delinquent and at risk youth; and The Parenting Program, a parenting education program for incarcerated, court-ordered parents that addresses their special needs and issues. The curriculum has been adopted by the California State Department of Corrections for use in all state prisons, beginning January 1998.
Patricia O’Brien is a social worker and assistant professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. Patricia’s major practice experience is in the area of domestic violence. She became committed to understanding the issues that affect women in transition from prison when working as an advocate for an inmate who had been incarcerated after being convicted for the homicide of her abusive partner.
Matt Oliver is currently a senior at Brigham Young University. He will be graduating in August of 1998 with a psychology major and sociology minor. His career goals include obtaining a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and conducting research in the areas of family and marital violence and treatment outcome assessment.
Susan Phillips, LMSW, is employed by Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is responsible for developing services for children whose mothers are incarcerated. In addition to creating direct services, Susan is also involved in research, public policy analysis and is the coordinator for efforts in Arkansas support of the national Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis Campaign.
Martha Raimon, Esquire is coordinator of the Incarcerated Mothers Law Project, Women’s Prison Association. Prior to joining WPA, Ms. Raimon coordinated the Family Court Initiative and Pro Bono Legal Assistance Network (C-PLAN) for the New York Office of the Public Advocate. She was also director of the Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. Family Law Unit and a lawyer in private practice.
Graham Reddoch is executive director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba. He has a longstanding interest in issues related to crime prevention and prisoner families, and is a founding member of the Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN). Under his leadership, the John Howard Society purchased a building dedicated to restorative justice, known as the Justice Resource Centre, and developed a number of programs based on restorative justice principles, including Restorative Resolutions (non-prison sentencing alternatives), and Restorative Parole.
Brenda Rich, M.S.W., L.S.W., has been with Philadelphia Society for Services to Children since 1989, as both a social worker and supervisor. She currently co-leads the therapeutic children’s group with a family therapist, as well as providing in-home services to the program families.
Sister Elaine Roulet, a Sister of St. Joseph, Brentwood, Long Island has been the recipient of many awards and citations, including the Wonder Woman Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Community Service Award, the President’s Volunteer Action Citation and the Decade of the Child Award. Sister Elaine has worked for over twenty-five years at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility as the Director of the Children’s Center. The Children’s Center is a national model for services for children of incarcerated women. She was the founder and executive director of Providence House, Inc. There are seven Providence Houses that provide homes for women on parole, battered women and homeless women. She was also the founder of Hour Children, whose purpose is to aid the children of incarcerated women.
Carl Route is CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Previous Prisoners. He is an advocate and researcher for restoration of rights of ex-convicted fathers and men and consultant trainer for prison ministries. He is also a board member with Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers.
Dottie Schell, RNC, is the family service specialist at Family Planning Council in Philadelphia, PA. She earned her diploma in nursing from Montgomery Hospital in Norristown and is certified in childbirth education and obstetrics. She supervises the Parenting Education Program in three County Prisons. She serves on the Professional Advisory Board of the March of Dimes and is past president of The Pennsylvania Healthy Babies Healthy Mothers Coalition
Joan Segars has been the abuse counselor for the family violence component of the SCI Muncy parenting program for the last three years. Her background with the bail fund and adult probation offices in Philadelphia have prepared her to work with incarcerated women who are victims and want to change their lives and the lives of their families. Joan holds a B.A. degree in criminal justice from Temple University.
Lauren Shapiro, director of the Family Law Project for Brooklyn Legal Services (BLS). Ms. Shapiro also founded and directed the BLS HIV project and has represented and supervised attorneys in hundreds of family court cases.
Charles Sullivan is founder and executive director of CURE, (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants), a national organization of families of prisoners, former prisoners, prisoners and concerned citizens. CURE’s purpose is to reduce crime through the reform of the criminal justice system (especially prison reform). CURE has 10,000 members and chapters in most states.
Maisha Sullivan is deputy director of Safe and Sound in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Michael Supancic is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Southwest Texas State University. His research has appeared in Criminology, Sage Criminal Justice System Annuals, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. His research interests include juvenile justice, the family and corrections, and the emerging role of the independent sector in criminal justice policy.
Patricia J. Thompson is an associate professor at the College of Nursing, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She served four years in the United States Army Nurse Corps. Reserve and has over 20 years experience as pediatric nurse practitioner and educator. Her research interests are pediatric nursing and parenting.
Mary Tripp started working for Corrections Education in Vermont in 1990. She came with a bachelor’s degree in English and had been a family educator in the Greater Burlington area for eight years. Her first duty in Corrections Education was with the incarcerated youth, under 22 years of age. She was responsible for identifying, assessing, and placement of the youths in an educational program. After 3 years, she sought her teaching license through Trinity College and did her student teaching at the Chittenden Correctional Center. She is now a licensed academic instructor within the program. She teaches a variety of classes including English, math and parenting.
Carol Valley is a native of Washington State employed at Washington Corrections Center, Reception Center as office support supervisor. She is co-facilitator of Family Focus Group and a member of the Wellness Committee. Active in community with Juvenile Diversion Program for 2 years and Al-Anon Family Groups for 5 years, she spends her spare time with family and doing outdoor exercise.
Donald E. Vowell, C.A.C., trained at the University of Oklahoma and the Lyle H. Boren Child Development Center; his 20 years of experience includes a 10 year association with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Ted Wachtel is the director of the Community Service Foundation (CSF) which initiated REAL JUSTICE, a restorative response to crime and wrongdoing. CSF provides education and residential services to troubled youth in southeast Pennsylvania. He is also the co-author of TOUGH LOVE.
Khatib Waheed is executive director of St. Louis Community Partnerships, St. Louis, MO and nationally known trainer in issues of diversity, community building and Afro-centric program design.
Rosaleen Wilcox has been the executive director of the Simon of Cyrene Society, for the past 5 years. The agency has been providing programs and services to inmate families and loved ones for the past 18 years. Rosaleen is an experienced public speaker, who’s insight and compassion for the families of those incarcerated can shed great light on needs.
Barbara Wilson, M.S. is a teacher on special assignment for Family-School-Community Partnerships Program, Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS), Los Angeles County Office of Education. As one of the largest, fully accredited court and community schools programs in the nation, JCCS plays a leadership role in providing neglected and delinquent youth an exemplary academic curriculum and a wide range of support services.
Melinda Yowell has worked with the State Correctional Institution at Muncy since 1986. Prior to her parenting program director position, she was a corrections counselor and an education counselor. During previous employment, Ms. Yowell gained experience as director of a women’s shelter, manager for an educational consultant firm, and director of a day care center. She holds a B.S. degree in education from Penn State University. Ms. Yowell has been responsible for the development and implementation of the SCI-Muncy parenting program.
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