Sentencing Policy

JS Blog Post February 10, 2015

Washington’s Parenting Sentencing Alternative: A strengths-based approach to supervision

Susie Leavell, Program Administrator, Washington State Department of Corrections

A sentencing alternative for parents in Washington State is showing great potential for reducing the rate at which parents return to prison after successfully completing the program. In 2010, the state Legislature passed the Parenting Sentencing Alternative, which has two components that allow parents of minor children to either avoid prison or to transfer early from prison onto electronic monitoring at home to parent. The Family and Offender Sentencing Alternative (FOSA) is a judicial sentencing option where judges can waive a sentence within the standard range and impose 12 months of community custody along with conditions for treatment and programming for eligible offenders who otherwise face a prison sentence. The other, called the Community Parenting Alternative (CPA), is a prison-based option that allows the Department of Corrections to transfer an offender home on electronic monitoring for up to the last 12 months of his or her prison sentence in order to parent.  Read more »

JS Blog Post February 3, 2015

Fifth post - Hill Briefing on Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the USA - Wednesday, September 4, 2014, Washington, D.C.

Patricia Allard

In this clip, Elizabeth Gaynes discusses the importance of family responsibility statements to advance the rights of children in the criminal justice process.

JS Blog Post January 20, 2015

Third post - Hill Briefing on Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the USA - Wednesday, September 4, 2014, Washington, D.C.

Patricia Allard

In this presentation to Hill staffers, Patricia Allard lays out opportunities for improvement. With a three-prong recommendation, Pat explores how we can begin to mitigate the impact of parental incarceration on children. Please stay tuned for more segments of this timely Hill briefing.

JS Blog Post January 6, 2015

Hewing a Stone of Hope Out of a Mountain of Despair: The Children of Incarcerated Parents’ Bill of Rights

Gail Smith

“The children of prisoners are guaranteed nothing. They have committed no crime, but the penalty they are required to pay is steep. They forfeit, too often, much of what matters to them: their homes, their safety, their public status and private self-image, their primary source of comfort and affection. Their lives and prospects are profoundly affected by the multiple institutions that lay claim to their parents—police, courts, jails and prisons, probation and parole—but they have no rights, explicit or implicit, within any of these jurisdictions.” – San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership

An estimated 2.7 million children nationwide are left behind by having at least one parent in jail or prison. In 2003, the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (SFCIPP) developed a Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents, based on the experiences of children. Nell Bernstein, with her groundbreaking book, All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated, helped to launch this initiative. In 2005 they deepened the blueprint by launching the Rights to Realities Initiative, outlining steps toward implementation.  In case you are not familiar with them, here are the eight rights: Read more »

JS Blog Post December 10, 2014

Hill Briefing on Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the United States -Wednesday, September 3 from 11-12:30pm in RM 2253 Rayburn Building

Patricia Allard

We're please to bring you a series of 5 video-blog posts from a Hill Briefing - Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the United States - held in the fall of 2014. The briefing was designed to explore how the family integrity needs of children can be addressed at their parent's sentencing hearing. In this post Pamela Clifton, Communications Coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, discusses the damaged the criminal justice system brought in her life and the lives of her children, and how her situation and that of many others could be better addressed without the use of prison terms.

JS Blog Post November 14, 2014

Why Mother-Child Alternatives to Incarceration Are Vital

Gail Smith

Have you ever seen a toddler suddenly separated from the mother? A tiny tot, whose mother set her down for a moment, put her arms around the legs of a nearby shopper in a crowded store, only to look up and realize she had the wrong woman. Panic quickly set in; the reaction was not only “Where’s my mom?” but a piercing wail that said, “I’m gonna die!” The mom quickly picked up her child, who was soon soothed. The cause of that panic is based in one of our most basic human experiences: bonding and attachment.

Every baby needs at least one solid attachment that they can count on. Attachment takes place through a stress and stress-reduction cycle. Babies get hungry and they let us know by crying. The primary caregiver, usually the mother, feeds the baby and the baby learns to trust that the mom will be there to provide sustenance and comfort. Without someone there to feed them reliably, babies in fact would die. This first experience of learning to trust someone forms the basis for all of our later relationships, our sense of self, and our capacity to function in the world without undue anxiety. Mother-child bonding is most critical in the first six months of a baby’s life, and continues until the child is about age six. Read more »

JS Blog Post August 25, 2014

Hill Briefing on Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the United States -Wednesday, September 3 from 11-12:30pm in RM 2253 Rayburn Building, Washington, D.C.

Patricia Allard

Hill Briefing

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson Hosts

Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the United States


“When my mother was sentenced, I felt that I was sentenced. . . She was sentenced to prison – to be away from her kids and her family.  I was sentenced, as a child, to be without my mother.”

- Antoinette, an adult, who was 8 years old when her mother was incarcerated[1]

When: On Wednesday, September 3, 2014 from 11-12:30pm

Where: Rayburn Building Room 2253

What: Please join Justice Strategies to examine how Congress can foster family integrity by offering alternatives to incarceration for parents convicted of non-violent drug or drug-related offences. Read more »

JS Blog Post August 21, 2014

United Nations Hears About the Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children

Patricia Allard

Formal Briefing on the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the Palais des Nations, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland: The Children's Right Work Group of the US Human Rights Network (pre-recorded video presentation) presented a powerful statement, encompassing the following concerns: over medication and use of psychotropic medications of Black girls, child labor primarily affecting Latino children in the US, necessity for alternatives to incarceration of parents convicted of non-violent drug offenses and children of color's right to family wellbeing and integrity, concerns about trying youth in adult courts who are sentenced to adult prisons, school to prison pipeline, and removal of Indigenous children from their People.

Presenters: Stephanie Franklin (Franklin Law Group), Julia Perez, Patricia Allard (Justice Strategies) and Angelo Pinto (Correctional Association of NY). Videographer: Bo Yih Thom, Breakaway Addiction Services

JS Publication August 13, 2014

Justice Strategies CERD Report on Alleviating Impact of Parental Incarceration

In this brief report, Justice Strategies researcher Patricia Allard argues: 1) for judges to be allowed the discretion to sentence parents to alternatives to prison, and 2) to require, under federal and state law, that Family Impact Statements be submitted to the court prior to sentencing determinations.  These arguments form the basis of Justice Strategies' civil society shadow report submission to the 85th Session of the United Nation's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) taking place in Geneva, Switzerland the week of August 10th, 2014.  Follow Pat's reporting from Geneva on our COIP blog, Facebook page and Twitter feeds.

JS Publication August 13, 2014

Justice Strategies Testifies before US Dept. of State on Border Crossing Prosecutions

In this testimony provided to the US Department of State, Justice Strategies' Director, Judith Greene discusses our concerns with the tremendous increase in misdemeanor and felony prosecutions filed against those crossing the border under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1325 and Sec. 1326, respectively, from 2002 to 2013.   In addition, we express our concerns with the segregated, sub-standard prisons being exclusively administered by private, for-profit prison corporations under contract to the US Bureau of Prisons.  This testimony is provided as part of the reveiw of the US government by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination being conducted in Geneva.  Follow our reporting on the proceedings in Geneva on Facebook and Twitter.

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