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June 2012  Correctional Forum   Correctional Forum                                                                        ...
Correctional Forum  June 2012Children, continued from page 1                                                              ...
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Where Public Health and Criminal Justice Issues Meet

See our article about our public health forum in the June Correctional Forum.

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Where Public Health and Criminal Justice Issues Meet

  1. 1. June 2012  Correctional Forum Correctional Forum June 2012 A Publication of the Pennsylvania Prison SocietyPromoting a humane, just and constructive correctional system and a rational approach to criminal justice since 1787Over 95,000 Children in Pennsylvania have a Parent in PrisonNew report includes the effects on children, recommended actionsby Bridget Fifer “This last December 31, I asked the cial proceedings, care-giving shortcom- embarrassment, to the shame…” Moreinmates at the county jail how many ings, and lack of contact with incarcer- severe cases of neglect after a parent’sof them had children, and 90 per- ated parents, children across the nation arrest were mentioned in the report,cent of them raised their hands. My are experiencing such as “a child asnext question was, ‘Who was raising trauma, fear, isola- young as six yearstheir children?’” Philadelphia Mayor tion, and neglect. old who was sim-Michael Nutter’s question leads to the An example is ply left behind inbroader question of how the estimated Miss America, the apartment…95,000 children in Pennsylvania with Laura Kaeppeler, without makingincarcerated parents are affected by who experienced arrangements fortheir situation. firsthand what him and his baby it’s like to have an brother (the boy A new report entitled, “The incarcerated par- tried to take careEffects of Parental Incarceration on ent and describes of himself andChildren: Needs and Responsive the emotional his baby brotherServices” was conducted by the Joint trauma: “None State Senator Stewart Greenleaf for weeks until stresses the importance of programsState Government Commission. The of my friends for children of incarcerated finds that through the combined could relate to the Photo by Erica Zaveloff. See Childrenforces of current arrest protocol, judi- isolation, to the on page 10The Graying of Pennsylvania’s Prisons Where PublicAge 55 is considered “elderly” for prisoners Health and Criminalby Bridget Fifer Justice Issues Meet Most Pennsylvanians are aware of the rising costs of prisons, but why is so much PTSD and other traumas affectof the state budget going to the prison system? About 85,000 people in Pennsylva- prisoners and former offendersnia are incarcerated in state and county prisons. One cause of this overcrowdingis the number of people who receive a sentence of life without parole. With this sen- by Eden Leetence comes what is often referred to as the “graying” of Pennsylvania’s prisons; in- “If we don’t provide ex-offendersmates who don’t receive parole are aging within the prison system. We spoke with with the opportunity to have housing,Julia Hall, Ph.D, a professor and coordinator of the Criminal Justice Department at how can we expect them to succeed?”Drexel University, current board member and former president of the Pennsylvania asked John Wetzel, Secretary of thePrison Society, about this trend, its implications, and possible solutions. Pennsylvania Department of Correc- CF: What are some reasons for the graying of Pennsylvania’s prisons? tions at the recent public health panel: JH: Prisons were never intended to be nursing homes or mental institutions, The Nexus Between Public Healthbut if our society insists on sentences of life without parole and other long and Criminal Justice. The 200 attend-sentences, we are buying into geriatric and mental health care for incarcerated ees also heard from Estelle Richman,individuals. We leave them no option but to age and die in prison. Acting Deputy Director for the U.S. See Elderly on page 11 See Public Health on page • 1
  2. 2. Correctional Forum  June 2012Children, continued from page 1 Facts About Incarcerateda neighbor noticed him with the stroller and called Child ProtectiveServices).” Parents and Their Children In addition to explaining the effects incarceration of a parent has on chil- 1. Over 10 million children in the Uniteddren, the report offered specific recommendations to facilitate a less trau- States have a parent under some type ofmatizing experience for children with incarcerated parents. These include: correctional supervision — either prison, • Altering arrest procedure to include specific protocol for when jail, probation, or parole. At least 1.7 million there is a chance a child might be present at the time of arrest. children have a parent currently in prison. • Providing education to officers, caregivers, and others on how to 2. More than one in every 100 adults in handle the sensitive nature of the situation. America are in jail or prison. • Developing a more accurate means of identifying children whose parents are incarcerated, their locations, and their well-being. 3. Seventy-five percent of incarcerated • Involving incarcerated parents more thoroughly in the process of women are mothers. their child’s care-giving options. 4. Forty-six percent of all imprisoned parents • Providing emotional support for children with incarcerated par lived with at least one of their minor chil- ents, such as support groups or after school programs. dren prior to their imprisonment. The report was completed in December, then announced and dis- 5. The average age of children with an incar-cussed at a press conference in February. It was also introduced to the cerated parent is eight years old; 22 percentState Senate Judiciary Committee in Harrisburg in March, where Rev. of the children are under the age of five.Dr. Wilson Goode, Sr., Member of the Advisory Committee for the JointState Government Committee, said, “I saw in that prison a grandfather,a father, and a grandson — all in the same prison, at the same time. And they met for the first time in prison. As I wasleaving, the grandson pulled me aside and asked, ‘Dr. Goode, I have a son that I’ve never seen. Do you think I will seehim for the first time in prison, too?’” Rev. Goode’s narrative illustrates a cycle of incarceration that the recommendationsthis report makes, if implemented, can help to break. For more information: The report may be found at Health, continued from page 1 • A large percentage of Pennsylvania’s prison popula-Department of Housing and Urban Development. A panel of tion is nonviolent, behind bars for misdemeanors.five specialists on the subject of public health also made re- • In Pennsylvania’s prisons, 17 percent of men and 48 marks based on the keynote speeches and answered questions percent of women have diagnosed mental health issues.from the audience. The event was presented by the Public • Prisoners leave the Philadelphia Prison SystemHealth Initiative of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, and with at least five days of medication, plus a 15 daysponsored by the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia prescription — if they can pay for it. Out of 5200and La Salle University’s Master of Public Health Program. prescriptions last year, only 37 were filled. Richman talked about public housing issues in great • The incarceration rate for women has grown by 800detail, especially when it comes to former prisoners finding percent over the past twenty years. Most of thesesafe and affordable housing. When individuals are released women are in their 30s and 40s and in prison forfrom incarceration, they often have no place to live. This drug infractions and other nonviolent a major public health problem, resulting in homeless- • Nearly 80 percent of the women entering SCIness and weakened communities. Richman explained that, Muncy have suffered various forms of abuse. Awhile public housing has become more accommodating to high proportion of women enter prison suffering former offenders than in the past, many stipulations still from PTSD and various abuses.exist. “If we’re going to make an impact on those comingout of prison, we have to offer safe and affordable hous- Seeking affordable health care and housing are problemsing,” Richman said. “If we don’t spend now but spend experienced by millions of people, not just those releasedthree times as much in the future, are we really saving from prison. This suffering can be avoided if legislatorstaxpayers’ money?” amend policies that focus on public health. There is not just one solution for these problems; however, one step in the right Other facts that were highlighted in the session include: direction will decrease the suffering of many individuals. • 25 percent of former offenders are homeless upon their release. Their death rate is highest in the first For more information: View video from the day at: http:// two weeks after their release, often due to having no home and no access to health care. 10 •