RawStory has a review of the new book All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated. The book, by Nell Bernstein, talks about the short- and long-term effects a parent's arrest can have on a young person. In addition to being left parentless when moms and dads are serving time, kids continue to suffer when their parents come out of prison and aren't able to find jobs, get food stamps, and secure housing.
[S]hutting down every means by which a parent can hope to go straight is a recipe for recidivism that punishes both parents and their kids. "Children," Bernstein writes, celebrate their parent's release "with cyclical regularity, then lose hope in increments as she fights a losing battle against joblessness, untreated addiction, and the intractable stigma of a criminal record." When a parent can't get a job or food stamps, or live in public housing or get into a decent drug treatment program because of her past conviction, the resulting strain undermines the parent-child relationship, humiliates and enrages everyone involved, and increases the chances of the parent turning to crime again and the child following her example.There are 2.4 million children in the U.S. who now have a mother or father behind bars. And hearing many of their stories is enough to outrage anyone with a shred of compassion or common sense.
The police who came for nine-year-old Ricky's mom were in such a hurry that they left him alone in the apartment with his infant brother. For two weeks, Ricky cooked for himself and his brother, and changed his diapers, until neighbors noticed and called Child Protective Services. Antonia was five when she saw her mother arrested on the street for prostitution handcuffed and put into the back of a police car. At home, she and her ten-year-old brother were on their own for a week until their mother returned.There's got to be a better way than this.
...Bernstein argues that the well-being of both prisoners and their children is better insured through drug treatment, regular family visits, and parenting classes than it is through simply locking prisoners up, forcing them to communicate with their children by phone or through glass, or farming a child out to a foster home "for their own good..."Sounds to me like Bernstein's book is worth checking out. Here's an idea: buy a copy for your favorite state legislator for the holidays.