How to support kids and families separated by incarceration
by Beth Navon & Amani Sawari
The harms done by mass incarceration extend to every part of life, not least to the bonds between children and their parents. Most often, these parents and kids are people of color. As criminal justice reformers, between us, we’ve both spent a lot of time with parents and children caught up in the prison and juvenile justice systems. The following steps are actions you can take to be part of making life better for kids and parents most directly affected by mass incarceration.
1. Become knowledgeable about the criminal and juvenile legal systems.
Here are just a few of the many resources you can find online and offline:
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation's resources on advocacy for change in juvenile justice
- The Haywood Burns Institute’s data map of juvenile justice disparities in the US
- Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun by Geoffrey Canada (book)
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (book)
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (book)
- The Day I Found Out About My Dad's Parole (article)
- “13th," documentary about the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans
- "Tre Maison Dason" documentary about three youth with incarcerated parents
2. Deepen your understanding of juvenile confinement.
3. Deepen your understanding of incarcerated parents' experiences.
Start by reading and sharing Malia's Daddy And The Magical Mashed Potatoes And Gravy. Reading books like this to children or groups of students in classes can create space for fruitful discussion.
4. Support the #RIGHT2VOTE campaign
Restoring incarcerated citizens voting rights allows them to participate in their families lives politically by voting on issues that range from healthcare, school district decisions and elected local officials. Join this important movement!
- The following states have active Right2Vote campaigns: CA (Initiate Justice) MA (Emancipation Initiative), NJ (New Jersey Institute for Social Justice)
- If you're not in one of those states please follow @PrisonerLed to be part of this month's social media campaign to promote the work happening in these states
- Sign up for the Right2Vote Report to follow the progress of the campaign and more about how to get involved.