- Few studies concentrate on the experiences of children of color with parents in the criminal justice system.
- Little research is devoted to exploring the challenges experienced by children placed in the foster care system (as a result of parental incarceration).
- Little work is done to address the immediate and long-term health issues of children with parents in the criminal justice system.
- Few studies address the physical, mental health, social, and financial challenges experienced by caregivers of these children.
- A scant body of work focuses on maternal reentry from prison.
Education and Research
CSSFCI will provide educational opportunities for Miami University graduate and undergraduate students to become knowledgeable about the impact of incarceration on children, caregivers, and families.
Universities across the country are providing their students with opportunities to work with children and families of diverse communities. These experiences come in the form of service-learning courses and based on findings from the service-learning literature, students engaged in these experiences develop a host of skills including leadership, communication, problem-solving, and improved academic achievement.
Frontlines: Working With Children and Families of the Incarcerated Panel
An Interview with Kim Davis
A Research Talk Hosted by Miami University’s Center for the Study and Support of Children and Families of the Incarcerated
- When: Wednesday, April 5th, 2023
- Where: Virtual, Registration Link Forthcoming
- Time: 6:00pm to 7:00pm (EST)
As a part of Citizens and Democracy week, the Center for the Study and Support of Children and Families of the Incarcerated will host a panel discussion on working with Children and Families of the Incarcerated.
Frontlines: Working with Children and Families of the Incarcerated.
Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at 7pm
Bekky Baker is the Program Manager for the Death Penalty and Peace & Nonviolence at Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center. Bekky has a BS in Journalism with minors in Environmental Studies and Geography from Ohio University and a Masters of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. She is an AmeriCorps alum who spent years working in Appalachian Ohio at a nonprofit creating local food access and fighting for food justice and then expanded her advocacy and community organizing skills with Save the Children Action Network, working to secure funding for early childhood education programs. Bekky has experience working with marginalized communities and families facing incarceration from working directly with families in foster care and as a school social worker in Price Hill. Currently, she organizes a pen pal program for people on death row and advocates for ending the death penalty in Ohio.
Dominque Jones-Johnson is the child of an incarcerated parent, an advocate for kids with incarcerated parents and the founder of Daughters Beyond Incarceration and Parenting from Prison. A native of New Orleans, Dominque is an expert on trauma due to parental incarceration. She is dedicated to educating communities on best practices for shifting paradigms and creating safe and supportive environments for children living with an incarcerated parent (CIP’s), to decrease trauma related stress and anxiety and nurture success. Often called upon to speak on panels, Dominque uses platforms available to her to raise the consciousness of public on the hardships CIPs live with. She has been featured in Gambit Weekly, NBS News, Dateline, and Sight Magazine to list a few. In 2007, "When are you coming home: AN EXPLORATORY ESSAY CONFRONTING THE ISSUES INVOLVING CHILDREN WITH INCARCERATED PARENTS AND HOW TO BREAK THE CYCLE," was published in Loyola's Law Review. Mrs. Johnson is a fellow of the Youth Justice Leadership Institute; Power Coalition She Leads and Citizen She- She Shows Up and was recently awarded City Business Women of the Year. Dominque is a graduate of Warren Easton Sr. High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University on a full track and field scholarship and, a Master's in Human Resource Education with a specialization in organizational leadership from LSU.
Kehaulani Walker is the founder of FOTi Families of the Incarcerated. Since 2016 Kehaulani and her leadership team have joined thousands of families across the nation to build trust and unity by forming over 37 FB pages for support. As a wife of an incarcerated individual that is currently housed in WA, Kehaulani strives to empower communities that are impacted by incarceration by bringing awareness to the unjust justice system. She advocates for proper rehabilitation, for the civil rights of individuals affected by imprisonment, for holding doc accountable to current policy, for abolishing solitary confinement, and being a voice for ending the stigma of incarceration.
Kehaulani has partnered with Via Path Technologies to create a new smartphone application to help families and friends navigate the judicial journey. Kehaulani is building a website that will be a “One Stop Shop” of resources for anyone impacted by incarceration. The two platforms are scheduled to launch by the end of 2022.
Belly of the Beast
Miami University's Center for the Study and Support of Children and Families of the Incarcerated hosted a virtual screening of the documentary Belly of the Beast, on Wednesday October 27, 2021. The documentary chronicles the practice of involuntary sterilization of incarcerated women and mothers in U.S prisons and presents poignant personal stories of these women and their families.
According to information released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (2016), there are approximately 2.5 million children with parents in the criminal justice system in the U.S. This number represents an increase in the last decade and this number varies significantly by race.
The literature on this population of children indicates that as a consequence of parental incarceration, these children experience a host of academic, mental health, and physical challenges as parents are arrested, convicted, incarcerated, and return home. However, there are several gaps in this work:
Impact of Drug Laws on Lived Experiences of Currently Jailed and Previously Jailed African American Mothers, their Children, and Caregivers
The Drug Enforcement Policy Center at The Ohio State University awarded a grant for this research to Dr. Yvette Harris and Dr. Cricket Meehan. The purpose of the project is to conduct an exploratory investigation of the "lived experiences" 1 of African American mothers currently jailed for drug crimes and previously jailed African American mothers (for drug crimes), their children and caretakers. We believe that this project is in concert with the overall mission of DEPC to educate, and train in particular social workers, who will work with these mothers, their children, and caretakers. Furthermore, our project also examines the impact of racially unjust drug policies on the lived experiences of currently jailed and previously jailed African mothers and their families.
1 We define lived experiences as parenting challenges, family relationship challenges, access to services, and social support.
Based on Ohio statistics, the number of women incarcerated in jails has increased from 450 in 1980 to 3,231 in 2015 (Incarceration Trends in Ohio, Vera Institute, 2019). While exact Ohio statistics on the number of African American women incarcerated in jails, are difficult to obtain, data suggests that African Americans in general in Ohio make up 34% of the jail population; while comprising only 13% of the state's population (Incarceration Trends in Ohio, Vera Institute, 2019). Nationally, according to Swavola, Riley, Subramanian, (2016), 44% of the women incarcerated in jails are African American and 80% of women in jails are mothers to minor children.
This is due in part to the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent drug
offenses and due in part to the over-policing that occurs in communities of color. Specifically, African
American men and women are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for low level
nonviolent drug offenses in contrast to Caucasian men and women. This pattern has led to a mass
incarceration and destabilization of African American neighborhoods (Alexander, 2010) and children and families are the collateral damage of such policing policies and laws.
We chose to examine African American mothers incarcerated in jails as opposed to those
incarcerated in prisons for the following reasons:
- There is a paucity of research on the wellbeing of these mothers, their children and their families incarcerated in jails, in contrast to the body of research on those incarcerated in prisons (Willingham, 2011).
- Incarceration in jails brings with it a different set of experiences, challenges and outcomes that differ in many ways from incarceration in prisons. Given budgetary constraints, jails, in contrast to prisons, are rarely equipped to provide the necessary mental health treatment and medical care for these mothers. Thus, incarceration in jail is particularly disrupting for women, especially those who enter with complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their encounters with repeated domestic violence and sexual abuse (Baranyi, Cassidy, Fazel, Priebe, & Mundt, 2018).
- Like incarceration in prison, families face financial devastation when mothers are incarcerated in jails. Mothers are typically the primary source of income, and families lose a significant income stream. Additionally, incarceration for drug related crimes leads to termination of public assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing (Metsch, & Pollack, 2005). However, in contrast to prisons, there is little reentry support or preparation for mothers in jail to assist them with job search skills or re-establishing their federal assistance.
- Family relationships are strained, because jails do not have policies or programs that support visitation, and phone calls from jails are costly and unaffordable for many of these families.
- Family reunification presents a challenge, as few jails provide family reunification programs, thus mothers, their children and families are unprepared for the challenges of maternal reentry. This is problematic given that some of these children suffer immediate and long-term mental health challenges, academic problems, and other behavioral problems (Harris, Graham, & Carpenter, 2010). Many of these children have also experienced the incarceration of one or more of their parents and as a result are placed in the custody of grandparents or in foster care. Their caregivers also go through a host of challenges as well. Many caregivers are assuming a parenting role that is difficult, and unexpected. For some there are decreases in income, leaving them to face economic hardships; for others they are parenting children with a host of emotional and behavioral problems, without access to resources.
Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow, New York: The New Press
Baranyi, G., Cassidy, M., Fazel, S., Priebe, S., & Mundt, A. P. (2018). Prevalence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Prisoners. Epidemiologic reviews, 40(1), 134–145.
Harris, Y.R., Graham, J.A., Oliver, Carpenter, G.J. (2010). Children of Incarcerated Parents: Developmental and Clinical Implications. New York: Springer Publishing Company
Metsch, L. R., & Pollack, H. A. (2005). Welfare reform and substance abuse. The Milbank quarterly, 83(1), 65–99.
Vera Institute of Justice (2019, December). Incarceration Trends in Ohio
Willingham, B. (2011). Black Women's Prison Narratives and the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in US Prisons. Critical Survey, 23(3), 55-66.
- Determine the unique parenting challenges of currently jailed mothers and previously jailed
African American mothers.
- Obtain information on the social support networks of currently jailed and previously jailed
mothers and their evaluation of the quality of those networks.
- Determine their assessment of their pre-release planning while in jail and their post jail
- Identify the mental health and physical health challenges of currently jailed mothers and
previously jailed mothers and their evaluation of their treatment options.
- Determine caregivers unique parenting challenges while the mothers were jailed and upon
the mothers' release.
- Examine the quality of the relationship between mothers and caregivers.
- Examine caregivers evaluation of the children's academic and social-emotional functioning
when the mother was jailed and when the mother was released.
- Determine how the lived experiences, differ between currently jailed mothers and previously
jailed mothers. It may be the case that we learn how previously jailed mothers navigate
Doing Family From Prison
The Center is assisting the directors of Daughters Beyond Incarceration, located in New Orleans Louisiana in capturing the impact of incarceration on the lives of children and their caretakers when there is an incarcerated parent. The researchers were asked to help in the development and implementation of a qualitative study that captures the voice of the children of incarcerated parents, the caretakers of those children, and the incarcerated parent. The children and the caretaker participants will be asked to participate in focus groups and one on one interviews as part of the research. The incarcerated parents will be mailed a list of questions which they will provide handwritten responses to. Qualitative inquiry will be used in order to capture the complexity of incarceration in a manner that offers the participants trust, safety, and an opportunity for in-person support and needed services.
- To better understand the impact of incarceration on the children of the incarcerated
- To capture the impact of incarceration on how family and parenting is still maintained though one parent is incarcerated
- To generate knowledge regarding the behaviors exhibited by children of the incarcerated
- To explain how trauma manifests in children of the incarcerated
- To identify if and how family members experience incarceration vicariously and interpersonally due to the incarceration of a parent.
COVID-19 and Children and Families of the Incarcerated
The overall goal of the project is to identify the challenges that children and immediate family members of incarcerated individuals encounter as a result of COVID-19. More specifically we are interested in determining how COVID has influenced their communication with their incarcerated loved one, how it has affected their mental and physical health, their financial stability, and their parenting. In general, our goal is to determine how COVID has impacted their daily lives. For more information about this research please contact Dr. Harris