Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘children with incarcerated parents

Sociologist Megan Comfort Studies How Mass Incarceration Affects Families

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Here’s a podcast with sociologist Megan Comfort on her book, Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of Prison (UChicago Press, 2007). Here’s what the book’s about:

Megan Comfort spent years getting to know women visiting men at San Quentin State Prison, observing how their romantic relationships drew them into contact with the penitentiary. Tangling with the prison’s intrusive scrutiny and rigid rules turns these women into “quasi-inmates,” eroding the boundary between home and prison and altering their sense of intimacy, love, and justice. Yet Comfort also finds that with social welfare weakened, prisons are the most powerful public institutions available to women struggling to overcome untreated social ills and sustain relationships with marginalized men. As a result, they express great ambivalence about the prison and the control it exerts over their daily lives.

Written by sara

August 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

Upcoming Event (& New Book!): Children of Incarcerated Parents Conference at Rutgers-Camden

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Rutgers-Camden will host a public conference on Wednesday, June 23, “that aims to open a dialogue about the needs of children and families of the incarcerated and how the private and public sectors can better respond.” More details:

Panels will be held on policy issues surrounding the Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA); the role of educators supporting children and families; the developmental effects of trauma on children; interventions for children of incarcerated parents; and best practices for supporting child and parent relationships. Representatives from regional corrections facilities and social services agencies will also be speaking, in addition to the keynote speaker, a formerly incarcerated father who founded Frontline Dads, for fathers dealing with life before and after incarceration.

The occasion for the conference is Rutgers professor Jane Siegel’s new book, Disrupted Childhoods: Children of Women in Prison(Rutgers UP, 2011). The conference is open to the public, but it looks like there’s a $45 fee. Registration form here.

Nevada Private Prison Joins Trend of Replacing Visits with Closed-Circuit Video

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The Las Vegas Review-Journal has this interview with the warden of a brand-new private prison. The interview itself is worth reading as a quick look at a warden’s point of view, but I wanted to highlight this line from the introductory material:

Nevada Southern, built by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America for $83.5 million, will look different than traditional prisons in more than just ownership. Prisoners can meet with outsiders, except lawyers, only through closed-circuit video feeds. In-person contact, in a large room or separated by heavy glass, has passed into history.

Between their out-of-the-way locations, security measures, advance paperwork requirements, limited visiting hours, exorbitant phone call fees, etc., prisons can make it very hard for inmates to coordinate and receive visits from family and friends. Yet studies have consistently suggested that prisoners who receive visits and maintain family ties fare better in terms of recidivism and reentry after they return to their community (as 90% of prisoners eventually do). In turn, visits are also important for prisoners’ children; studies suggest “those who visit their parents more often and under better visiting conditions exhibit fewer adjustment problems” (Petersilia, When Prisoners Come Home, p. 44). Although I do not know if it’s been empirically proven, I would be surprised if a closed-circuit video visit has the same meaning to either prisoners or their visitors as a face-to-face conversation. I would assume that if pressed about this policy, CCA would say it’s about keeping out contraband and/or cutting costs. But it sounds to me like a short-sighted, counterproductive measure.

Written by sara

September 27, 2010 at 7:38 am

GAO to Study Price Gouging for Prison Phone Calls

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The ACLU Blog of Rights notes a little-noticed feature of the recently-signed Prison Cell Phone Act:

The bill orders the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the rates that federal prisoners must pay to use ordinary prison phones — and to investigate less expensive alternatives.

The GAO should take a hard look at prison phone rates. The fact is that prisoners who want to stay in touch with their children, parents, and spouses are being gouged. With steep charges to initiate a call, and astronomical per-minute rates, it can cost a prisoner over $30 to make a half-hour call to a loved one. Those who qualify for a prison job often make less than 25 cents per hour — so paying for a brief call to a son or daughter may require more than 100 hours of labor. Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan Supreme Court: Incarceration Is Not a Sufficient Reason to Terminate Parental Rights

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Father's Day 2010 at the California Men's Colony (courtesy CDCR)

“Incarceration alone is not a sufficient reason for termination of parental rights,” the Michigan Supreme Court has held (PDF link), in overturning a lower court ruling that stripped a 29-year-old father’s parental rights while he was in prison. Free Press columnist Jeff Gerritt praises the decision:

The ruling by two liberal justices (Marilyn Kelly and Michael Cavanagh) and two conservative justices (Robert Young Jr. and Maura Corrigan) does more than uphold the rights of the incarcerated. It’s good news for anyone espousing so-called family values — or, for that matter, anyone who believes the courts and state bureaucracy should consider real-world problems when interpreting the law.

Like many family law cases, this one implicates a mixture of messy facts and strong moral judgments on all sides, so I am hesitant to repeat the facts posited by either the majority or dissenting opinion as gospel; you can click on the link above to read for yourself. For legal purposes, the key holding seems to be that lower courts can’t apply a presumption of parental unfitness based on a parent’s present incarceration; they must at least consider whether the parent might be fit to care for the children after his/her release. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sara

June 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

Washington DOC Settles with Woman Shackled During Childbirth

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As reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Washington DOC will pay a $125,000 settlement to former inmate Casandra Brawley, who was shackled while giving birth in April 2007 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma. Partly in response to Brawley’s case, Washington has since passed legislation banning the practice of shackling inmates during childbirth. In her lawsuit, Brawley was represented by Legal Voice, a women’s rights nonprofit, and the Seattle law firm Peterson Young Putra. More information on this case as well as Legal Voice’s anti-shackling advocacy efforts more generally is available at the Legal Voice website.

Happy (Belated) Mother’s Day to All the Mothers in Prison, or with Children in Prison

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Nearly 70% of women in state prisons have young children, and over half have never had a visit from them. Those statistics come from the Sentencing Project, which has put together some stories of how women in prison spend Mother’s Day. The video above is from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which collaborated with the Center for Restorative Justice Works to bring over 700 children to visit their incarcerated mothers yesterday in the 11th annual Get on the Bus event. A similar event is also being planned for Father’s Day.

Written by sara

May 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

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