Save your Black Friday Spending to Instead Support Children of Incarcerated Parents for #Giving Tuesday

Every year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving #GivingTuesday provides individuals an alternative to spending their money on “Black Friday.” This year consider staying away from companies that support the prison industry and instead donate to organizations helping children of incarcerated parents. The U.S has approximately 7 million people in prison, jail, probation or parole, 100,000 in juvenile detention, 478,000 in immigration detention. More than 5 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives and this number does not include parents in youth detention or immigration detention. An estimated 1,559,200 children had father in prison in 2007, and similar to racial disproportionality in incarceration rates, these numbers do not fall evenly across race as nearly half were children of black fathers. For Latinx children they are two and a half times more likely to have an incarcerated parent. Further, an estimated thirty percent of incarcerated teens have children of their own. For LGBTQ individuals, 44% report having children of any age. Although we don’t have exact numbers of how many incarcerated immigrant fathers there are, we do know that based on ICE’s own reports in 2012, an average of 31 children per day were placed into state care and 1,305 individuals were processed into immigrant detention centers nationwide.

We also know that parental incarceration often leads to additional financial challenges for already disadvantaged and under-resourced families. The best way to support these families would be to keep people out of prison in the first place. When alternatives do not exist, we must provide opportunities for families to maintain contact. Unfortunately, more often than not instead of supporting family connection, our criminal justice system operates to sever the ties and relationships between incarcerated individuals and their families. Institutional barriers, distance and financial costs make it difficult for families to make visits happen. Reports show that many families reported they had difficulties staying in touch with family primarily because the prison was too far away, or telephone calls were too expensive. Indeed 62% of parents in state prison and 84% of federal prisoners were housed more than 100 miles from their place of residence at arrest. Maintaining ties between children and their incarcerated parent is far-reaching as studies show that family ties are the number one predictor of successful reentry and family members are the greatest anticipated source of financial resources, housing and emotional support before people in prison are released. After release, families provide the greatest tangible and emotional support. However, over half of parents in prison never get visits from their children while incarcerated. For LGBQ identified parents 71% didn’t have contact with their children during their incarceration. Further complicating visitation is the reality that many LGBTQ parents lack legal ties to children they are raising because of decades of discrimination and the ability to marry or to obtain a second-parent adoption. When parents are incarcerated in immigration detention or prison, the effects of separation on children will have extra layers of trauma, as the family and children may already be struggling with the stresses of immigration. Additionally, the resources for these parents may be limited by a parent’s immigration status. For example, undocumented immigrants sentenced to state or federal prisons are not able to get parenting alternative sentencing options in states like Oregon and Washington. Undocumented immigrant parents sent to immigration detention centers will be faced with poor visitation policies (families much visit through glass in a group style with other inmates meeting with their kids at the same time), lack of access to parental supports such as parenting classes, and mental health services.

The following organizations are some of my favorite working toward supporting these families touched by incarceration, consider supporting them this Tuesday:

 

 

  • Echoes of Incarceration. An award-winning documentary initiative produced by youth with direct experience of the criminal justice system. The project seeks to train and empower young people to tell their stories and advocate for change. Contact info here.

 

 

  • Black and Pink. “Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other.” They do this by providing resources and support to LGBTQ prisoners while working to end the prison industrial complex and the violence it enacts via advocacy, education, direct service and organizing. Donate here.
Riley Hewko, Esq.

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Monthly Feature

Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People's Movement Western Regional Conference

Convened by All of Us or None & Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

Sunday, September 20th & Monday, September 21st

Formerly incarcerated and convicted people, family members, community and spiritual leaders, elected officials and government employees will all come together to strengthen our relationships and work towards making change through community empowerment. We invite you to Voice your opinion, learn your rights and learn what changes we can make together. All of Us or None Contact: (415)-255-7036 ext. 337 www.prisonerswithchildren.org

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