Posts Tagged by incarceration
|February 22, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Children and Family, Policy, Youth Development||
Continuing with the incarceration theme…
The number of children with at least one parent in prison increased dramatically in the last decade and a half. While there are many unknowns as to the extent of this occurrence – especially among youth in foster care – a brief from the National Conference of State Legislatures, reports over 1.7 million children had a parent incarcerated within a state or federal prison in 2007. Further, between 1991 and 2007, the number of children with a father in prison increased by 77 percent while the number of children with a mother in prison increased by 131 percent.
In Pennsylvania, this growing problem caught the attention of policymakers, as resolutions in 2009 ordered the Joint State Government Commission to study the impact of parental incarceration on children, including the development of needs assessments, the identification of interventions and exploration of the nature of any barriers to services. The committee made a number of recommendations, including:
- training for criminal justice professionals on the numerous issues faced by children with parents in the justice system (from arrest through parole);
- cross-training for leaders in the educational, legal, health and social service systems who have contact with youth who have incarcerated parents about impact of incarceration on children and families and to review methods to improving cross-system coordination;
- establishment of subsidized guardianship programs for kin of incarcerated persons with children where the removal of parental rights is not required;
- improvement of both the efficiency and the cost of visiting and communications policies and practices , including making them more comfortable for children;
- the addition of programming for inmates and their families to encourage reunification, improve stability during re-entry planning and to reduce recidivism; and
- more and better data collection, data sharing and cross system collaboration around incarcerated parents and their children.
The 2011 report, The Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Needs and Responsive Services Report of the Advisory Committee Pursuant to House Resolution 203 and Senate Resolution 52 of 2009 is available online in PDF format. Also, another helpful resource for professionals working with children of incarcerated parents is the guide, When a Parent Is Incarcerated: A Primer for Social Workers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
|February 20, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Budget, News||
Since it is budget time again in the Commonwealth, I wanted to post about an interesting fiscal analysis of correctional institutions that I came across recently. The Vera Institute of Justice and the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project collaborated to identify the true financial cost of state prisons to tax payers, not just that included departmental budgets. The 2012 report, Price of Prisons What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers by Christian Henrichson and Ruth Delaney, details their findings on the distribution of prison costs across various agencies and the true cost to taxpayers.
The researchers developed a methodology to capture three kinds of costs, administrative, inmate services (paid for from outside funding streams) and pension and retiree health care plans. They also identified numerous costs that fell outside of corrections budgets yet fell to the taxpayer, concluding that prisons cost taxpayers about 14 percent more than the expenditures listed in the annual budgets represent.
The study lists Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections as spending over 1 and a half billion dollars in the 2010 prison budget, with an additional $463.8 million (over 22.5 percent) in related costs outside the corrections budget. A breakdown of the 2010 budget (and not-in-the-budget) expenditure data from the 40 states that participated in the study is also available online via the Vera Institute of Justice website.
|October 6, 2011||Posted by M. P. under Children and Family, Federal Government, Policy||
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Child Welfare: More Information and Collaboration Could Promote Ties Between Foster Care Children and Their Incarcerated Parents, examined the number of youth in foster care with incarcerated parents, how the child welfare and correctional systems worked together to continue family contact, and how larger government agencies, the Department of Health of Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in particular, have supported local level agencies in this goal.
To summarize, the answers are:
- No one really knows;
- occasionally; and
- not much.
Unfortunately, data from the HHS and the Bureau of Justice Statistics do not provide an accurate estimate of the number foster children with at least one parent incarcerated, nor do they provide information on the timing of the incarceration in relation to the removal of the child or children from the home. Known data from 2009 suggest that more than 14,000 youth were placed in foster care due to the incarceration of a parent.
In the 10 states studied, researchers successfully identified methods used to support families separated by both incarceration and the child welfare system including training for caseworkers, and when possible, parental involvement via telephone in child family court hearings. How often such or similar methods were utilized is unknown. It is also not clear if any long-term strategies were in place across systems to best facilitate goals of family reunification, or if and when kinship care was utilized. It should be noted that caseworkers in the child welfare system face extraordinary challenges working with correctional facilities due to the maze of regulations, policies and procedures found in both systems.
The GAO found that HHS does disseminate information to child welfare and correctional agencies to assist children and families involved in both systems, but the report mentions that such information was not necessarily easily located or timely. Also, the report indicates that federal prisons lack written guidelines for working with child welfare agencies and caseworkers.
The report concludes that routine, standardized distribution of up-to-date information, cross-system collaboration, clear protocols adhering to policy and working relationships between agencies at the local level would go far in maintaining familial bonds between foster children and their incarcerated parents. These, and several additional recommendations, are listed at the GAO website.
Even over a decade after its passage, the well-intentioned legislation to more quickly move foster children to permanent homes, via either family reunification or an adoptive home, makes the relevance of this report clear. While federal law deems states must make “reasonable efforts” to reunify families, states are allowed to define those efforts as they see fit. Luckily, legal advocates and some policymakers have long recognized and been working to address the issues raised by this report.