Advancing Family Integrity for All: Sentencing Reform Affecting Parents

Following the September 4th, 2014 Hill briefing – Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the USA (see January 2015 blog posts) - co-hosted by Justice Strategies and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Justice Strategies launched a much needed campaign, Advancing Family Integrity for All. It is time to refocus our attention on the children left behind as a result of parental incarceration. Children are the silent victims of our country’s tough on crime policies. By honoring the right to family integrity of children who have a mother or father facing a possible prison term, promoting alternatives to incarcerating parents, and offering the necessary socio-economic supports to help families thrive, we can finally prioritize children, families and communities while upholding public safety.  Advancing family integrity for all enhances public safety for everyone.

Advancing Family Integrity for All seeks sentencing reform at the federal and state level. We offer the following four principles as guidance for reform:

1. At the pre-sentencing hearing of an individual convicted of an offense, the Court should be required to ask whether the person is a parent;

2. If the individual is a parent, the court should be required to hear and consider what the impact of incarcerating the parent will be on their children through the means of a Family Impact Statement;

3. After assessing all the facts before him or her, a sentencing judge should be encouraged to exercise sound judicial discretion with respect to sentencing a parent to an alternative to a prison term, which is likely to promote family integrity (i.e. probation, education or job training programs, housing support, health, social, and psychotherapeutic supports, and medical supports including drug treatment); and

4. When considering legislative proposals that will affect sentencing and correctional policy, lawmakers must be given estimates of the impacts on the children of individuals directly affected.

Here is an example of state work Justice Strategies has explored in New York State.

Patricia Allard

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Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People's Movement Western Regional Conference

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