Incarcerated parents need contact with their children, Oklahoma legislative panel says
Community-based sentencing should be considered and in-person visits and telephone calls should be allowed between incarcerated parents and their children, a legislative task force said. More than 26,000 Oklahoma children have a parent in a state prison, survey finds.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT email@example.com
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Published: January 5, 2012
Community-based sentencing programs should be increased and relations between state inmates and their children should be encouraged, according to findings released Wednesday by a legislative task force that looked at the issue of children of incarcerated parents.
On any given day, more than 26,000 Oklahoma children have a parent in a state prison, according to the report. That does not include children with parents jailed in county and city jails and federal correctional facilities.
“It is important for us to understand how many children are hurt by having a parent in prison so we can take action to slow the parade of children who would follow their parents' footsteps into prison,” said former Creek County Associate District Judge April Sellers White, who served as chairman of the task force.
A new survey, conducted as part of the 21-member task force's work, surveyed male and female offenders and found that nearly 3 percent of Oklahoma children have a parent in the state prison system. Child advocates and experts report that children of incarcerated parents run a higher risk of going to prison.
About 80 percent of the 26,106 children, or 21,482, have a father in state prison, according to the task force's survey. It found 4,624 had a mother in state prison.
“These are the forgotten victims of crime,” said the Rev. Stan Basler, a task force member who is director of criminal justice and mercy ministries of the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church. “It's not their fault.”
Oklahoma leads the nation in the rate of incarcerating females and is fifth in the rate of men sent to prison, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics.
“It has been our hope to work together in a way to help focus the attention of the good people of this state of Oklahoma on the children who are paying a price when parents are incarcerated and the children did nothing that they should pay for,” White said. “It has not been the position of our group that people should not be punished for their crimes. But the question for us was: What's happening with the children?”
Sheila Harbert, chief community outreach officer for Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa and a task force member, said her agency has taken children to several prisons to be with their mothers.
Read more: http://newsok.com/incarcerated-parents-need-contact-with-their-children-oklahoma-legislative-panel-says/article/3637535#ixzz1mIDhK2gr
I disagree! Prison is no place for children to visit.