The Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia is not allowing their inmates to visit with their children. According to a class-action lawsuit that was recently filed, that’s what happened to Allen Woods when he couldn’t see his son on his sixth birthday. Instead of well wishes and hugs, Woods had to be satisfied with sending a card.
Woods has been waiting to go to trial at the detention center for charges of dealing marijuana for the past 15 months, and now he’s struggling with a visitation policy that is strict and, to many, unfair. In July of 2016, the FDC barred all visitors that weren’t immediate family.
In Woods’ case, his son’s mother is not married to Woods, so she was not allowed to bring their son, Daylan, to visit Woods.
Since it is also not permitted to have unaccompanied minors, that meant that Woods is one of many dads who won’t get to see his child.
Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia: Unconstitutional Policy
The proposed lawsuit called this policy “cruel and unconstitutional,” as well as “among the most draconian in the federal system.” According to Dana Bazelon, a Philadelphia lawyer who filed the suit, virtually none of her clients are married, and the policy has been tearing families apart.
Bazelon also said that the inability to see their children is devastating to the inmates, and it obviously does the opposite of everything known about trying to rehabilitate these men. Maintaining strong community contact is crucial to helping them change their ways. According to Bazelon, the children also need the contact, so they don’t feel abandoned. Phone or email with a small child doesn’t work.
It’s interesting to note that the policy is only in effect for inmates awaiting trial, which accounts for about 90% of the inmates at FDC. According to Ben Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center, many of the inmates can still be incarcerated for months and even years.