When a parent is sentenced to serve time in prison it can be absolutely debilitating to the family of the inmate. Correctional Medical Care has written before about the toll that incarceration of a parent can have on a child; the short of it is an increase in mental health issues including depression and anxiety and incredibly poor self-esteem. Seeing their parents only on the occasional conjugal visit can have negative impacts on a child–particularly one who is still in the developmental phase–that don’t need to be explained any further.
But how does it affect the parent–how is the person who committed the crime and was sentenced to serve their due time affected by interactions with their children? While I’ve previously written about the effects of gardening programs within prisons, and more recently animal therapy programs, family bonding activities within prison have been shown to have noticeable impacts on prison inmates.
The “family intervention” unit that one prison in the UK opened up in 2010 has seen remarkable impacts on both the prisoners involved and the their children. In an interview with BBC, Corin Morgan-Armstrong, the head of the program at the prison said “It’s about reducing reoffending and it’s about improving the future outcomes of these children, most of whom will have negative, pre-determined outcomes because of their parental situation.”
The initiative established at HM Prison Parc in Bridgend allows children to engage in interactive reading and playful workshops and programs with their parents who are currently serving time. According to the prison inspectors involved, the prisoners at HM Prison Parc have seen a large increase in visits from family when compared to those who do not.
While that program is focused on one particular prison in the UK, programs like the Fortune Society also offer family services within prison walls in the US as more and more people have begun to recognize the importance of family values even in those who have committed crimes. The formation of strong family bonds between the prisoners, their children and their husbands and/or wives has had a measured impact on not only the children, but also the prisoner him or herself.
Prison programs like Fathers for Life also help incarcerated males from the time they’re sentenced until their release to help improve the quality of life for both the fathers and their children. Parenting support is offered to the men who have been serving time through the Fathers for Life program, wholly benefiting all parties involved.
Depriving incarcerated inmates of their basic human rights–access to medical care and housing is something that far too many people believe is the standard in prisons. Depriving them of access to their families, including children, is something that others believe benefits the children, when in fact the opposite is true. The benefits of family access for both the family and the inmate is something that should convince policymakers to implement programs like these in prisons nationwide.