Nebraska State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks aims to improve the lives of children with incarcerated parents through better parent-child interaction.
The senator introduced an interim study (LR198) that seeks to examine the impact of having an imprisoned parent on a child.
This study is relatively timely given the large number of kids with jailed parents in the state and in the country as a whole.
Some Stats from LR198
In Nebraska alone, around 41,000 kids have had their parents jailed at a certain point in their childhood years.
Within Nebraska prisons, 66% of female prisoners and 65% of male inmates are parents. Better parent-child interaction could help decrease recidivism and the school to prison pipeline in the US.
Scope of the LR198 Study
Through LR198, Brooks aims to look at:
- Prison visitation and phone call policies for jailed parents and their kids
- Alternatives in sentencing and placement to alleviate the trauma that prison kids experience
- Child-friendly visitation policies in jails and prisons
Brooks believes that access for children with parents in prisons is absolutely critical. She said:
“I think we know that we’re talking about love and withholding of love does not lead to rehabilitation of a criminal.”
“Tough on Crime” Policies in Prisons
Julia Tse, policy coordinator with Voices for Children in Nebraska, stressed that “tough on crime” policies have negatively affected prison kids.
Non-child-friendly visitation policies in prisons do not contribute to better parent-child interaction, and ultimately more bonding, she said.
Except for few parenting classes and parent-child programs in prisons, parents and children have no opportunity for positive development interaction.
Tse also called for the state to support prisoners in assuming their parental roles upon their release.
How to Uplift Better Parent-Child Interaction within Prisons
Those who testified for the study recommended several measures for better access between a child and his or her imprisoned parent:
- Increase minimum age for physical contact during visitations
- Create child-friendly physical spaces
- Enable natural, age-appropriate interactions including books, toys, and games
- Reduce barriers to visiting and contact (such as transportation assistance)
- Provide training for correctional staff in communicating with family members and interacting with children
- Increase time limits of phone calls for kids