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How to support kids and families separated by incarceration

082719 it s a shared sentence action guide

by Beth Navon & Amari 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.

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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:

2. Deepen your understanding of juvenile confinement.

Two good places to start: teen poetry collections at the Pongo Bookstore, documentaries by young adults who served time at Rikers Island (​Youth Portraits, which includes rough language).

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!

Amani Sawari

Amani Sawari founded and writes for the site,, and is Coordinator for the Right2Vote Campaign. She was selected as Jailhouse Lawyers Speak’s spokesperson for the 2018 National Prison Strike in April 2018 after the Lee County Prison Riot provoked incarcerated activists to partner with organizers on the outside. Her coordination of over 300 endorsing organizations led to the successful participation of incarcerated activists in 17 states and 3 regions abroad.

Beth Navon

Beth Navon, LMSW spent more than 30 years as a nonprofit administrator recognized for her expertise in the mental health field and juvenile justice advocacy. She created a nationally recognized service delivery model for youth re-entering the community after incarceration and has published several pieces on how to replicate the model.