National

JS Blog Post May 21, 2015

Family: The most cherished of American institutions

Glenn E. Martin, Founder & President JustLeadership

When evaluating the effects of incarceration on our society, we might begin with its impact on the most cherished of American institutions: the family. The unjust law enforcement policies that result in incarcerating people of color at an exponentially higher rate than their white fellow citizens has resulted in the disintegration of the very structure that “tough on crime” advocates claim is so central to developing productive citizens. Read more »

JS Blog Post April 23, 2015

Parental Incarceration's Destalizing Impact on Family and Community

Patricia Allard

When we speak of Family Integrity for All, we also mean family integrity for the caregivers who are compelled to step into the shoes of the parents who are incarcerated and let go of their role as grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, etc.  I know from my experience of being raised by my grandmother, it was challenging for her in some ways. While my grandmother assumed a caregiver role, she was not alone. My mother, her daughter, was still around being a mother to me when she wasn’t away at work. So the joys of being a grandmother and a granddaughter were still experienced by my grandmother and me. I saw this vibrancy of our relationship until my grandma’s late age of 101. However, when the state incarcerates a parent, they are physically removing the parent, and other family members are forced to assume a role they were not intended to assume. What is lost of the natural, vibrancy of those relationships?  Take a look at what the experts have to say. This video from Echoes of Incarceration, Caring Through Struggle: Caregivers of Children with Incarcerated Parents, provides an incredible lens into how the criminal justice system destabilizes families and communities, but it also shows us the resilience that we hold in our spirit of resistance.

JS Blog Post April 15, 2015

Time for change: Jazree's story of parental incarceration

Patricia Allard

Brave New Films has created several short films exploring the impact of parental incarceration on children. In Jazree's Court: Growing Up With an Incarcerated Father, we meet Jazree who shares her experience of growing up without her dad. She shares some of her challenges, especially that of coming out. The film also shows the reunification between Jazree and her dad, and we can see an incredible bound of love, compassion and tenderness between them. Yet it is quite clear that the absence of her father made coming out among other trying times very daunting for Jazree.

The question remains: Are there alternatives to incarceration available in the US, which can honor family integrity for youth like Jazree? I believe there are opportunities for improvement.  We need not go to Mars to find solutions to this growing North American malaise – parental incarceration. In Australia, courts are already hearing and considering the impact of parental incarceration on children, and are afforded discretion with respect to sentencing a parent. An example of a legislative scheme in Australia can be found at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca191482/s16a.html Read more »

JS Blog Post April 12, 2015

Where is the 'best interest of the child' at sentencing?

Patricia Allard

When a parent is yanked out of a child’s life by the state and incarcerated, a child is bound to experience a multitude of emotions – fear, anger, sadness, etc. It’s normal. But what is not normal, and I might add contrary to the principles of fundamental fairness, is that the child’s interest is ignored completely during a parent’s criminal proceeding. But it need not be that way, and criminal court can do better. Our legal system has established a test to determine whether the court should hear from a person interested in a particular court matter. The court asks three key questions to determine whether someone should be heard at a legal hearing (i.e. be given standing):

  1. Does the matter before the court directly affect you? Could you experience harm?

Yes, a judge sentencing a parent to a prison term means the child’s parental support, love and affection is removed from his/her life.

  1. Is there a causal connection between the action that could cause harm to the person seeking standing in the matter before the court?

Yes, the judge’s action of removing the parent and placing him/ her behind bars, sometimes very far away, harms the child emotionally, psychologically, and in many cases, physically and financially. Read more »

JS Blog Post March 30, 2015

Advancing Family Integrity for All: Listen to the Experts I

Patricia Allard

In blog post March 12, 2015, Advancing Family Integrity for All: Sentencing Reform Affecting Parents, we propose to state and federal governments a five-part sentencing reform initiative to honor and advance family integrity for all. Evidence-based research shows us that children who have parents who are incarcerated can experience short and long term trauma. Child-friendly prison programs are a Ban Aid solution to parental incarceration – sporadic visits, long distances to travel to visit, ill-equipped prisons and inadequately trained prison staff, to name a few perpetuate the trauma visited on children. It is critical that governments consider sentencing reform to drastically reduce the number of children who are senselessly separated from their parents.  Listen to the experts on the impact of parental incarceration. And then, let’s talk about and advance sentencing reform for parents.
 

JS Blog Post March 17, 2015

Sesame Street Made a Video, But It's Not Cute and It's Not Funny

Patricia Allard

Upworthy created a powerful video that presents the documentary initiative produced by youth of incarcerated parents, Echoes of Incarceration http://www.echoesofincarceration.org/Home.html. Read more »

News Article The Atlantic March 12, 2015

Day Fines in the News

In this article, Justice Strategies' Director, Judy Greene, responds to news from Finland of their use of day fines, where traffic tickets scaled to the violator's income can reach over $100,000 (US equivalent) for well-off speeders.  Last week, a US Dept. of Justice report raised concerns that fine enforcement practices in Ferguson Missouri were shaped more by the need for revenue rather than public safety.  Director Greene helped establish the use of day fines in New York City almost 30 years ago.  She responds to the question of the fairness of day fines in this article, along with, University of Chicago economics professor, Charles Mulligan, and University of Minnesota professor of applied economics, Marc Bellemare.

JS Blog Post March 3, 2015

Women Behind Bar: By the Numbers, ABC News Special 2020, Diane Sawyer

Patricia Allard

Diane Sawyer goes into prison over night and speaks with several women about their experience in prison, as well as why they are there. “Most of the women are mothers. 1 in 25 is pregnant when she goes in. Women are the fastest growing group of prisoners in the U.S. compared to men. 63% are jailed for non-violent crimes. 11.1% are in for murder.” [Women Behind Bar: By the Numbers, ABC News Special 2020] Most of the women to whom Sawyer speaks openly discuss how their children have been left behind. Read more »

JS Update February 10, 2015

"Shadow Prisons" Transforming Rural America's Landscapes

Follow this link to see Fusion writers Jorge Rivas and Cristina Costantini's birds-eye-view of how "Shadow Prisons" used to house over 55,000 immigrants, have transformed landscapes in rural America. http://fusion.net/story/43342/before-and-after-how-shadow-prisons-transformed-rural-america/

JS Update February 10, 2015

Director Judy Greene Quoted on Shadow Prisons

In their multimedia Fusion article, with quotes from Justice Strategies' Director Judy Greene, authors Cristina Costantini and Jorge Rivas describe how the U.S. Government has created a second-class federal prison system specifically targeted to holding immigrants in private for-profit prisons. http://interactive.fusion.net/shadow-prisons/

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