Wednesday, 13 October 2010 16:50

Study finds children of inmates at higher risk

Written by
Rate this item
(3 votes)

10/12/10
KEN MILLER, Associated Press Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma children whose mothers are in prison are five times more likely to end up in prison themselves, according to a report released Tuesday by a child advocacy group.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy's annual Kids Count Factbook said those children then often have children of their own who end up in the same situation, perpetuating the cycle.

"We know any adverse childhood experience, any sort of trauma or loss a child experiences affects them in their development," said Linda Terrell, the group's executive director.

"When you add on top of that the stigma and shame of having a parent incarcerated, that adds a double layer ... and many children are not comfortable talking about where their parent is, if they do talk they will be judged or ridiculed" by peers, she said.

 

Oklahoma has had more women in prison, per capita, than any other state since 1993. It ranks fifth in the nation in the number of men in prison per capita, with about 1,700 per 100,000 population, according to the report.

Terrell said prevention programs are needed for children from birth until they graduate from high school to keep them from falling into the cycle committing crime and being sentenced to prison, just as their parent was.

She said legislation, such as that by state House Speaker- designate Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, that creates diversion and re-entry programs for nonviolent offenders, will provide for more stability for children by allowing them to remain with their primary caregiver.

The legislation sets up pilot programs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa that are to provide alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders who are a child's primary caregiver.

Steele did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The programs are to focus on treatment instead of incarceration and on re-entry into society for inmates being released.

The law goes into effect Nov. 1.

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said he was not aware of any legislation planned for the next Legislative session, which begins in February, that would address diverting non-violent offenders into treatment programs rather than prison.

"Those things have a tendency to get introduced as a result of interim studies," he said.

"We as an agency have always supported diversion, provided there are proper resources in the community to make them work."

Terrell said it must be remembered that the incarceration rate for men is also high.

The fathers reported little contact with their children, 60 percent saying they haven't seen their children even once since being sentenced.

Terrell said the effect on child of a mother or father depends on which parent is the primary caregiver.

"If the primary caregiver is in prison, the children are going to have more issues to deal with when that parent goes away.

"That's why the focus is on the moms, because the mom is most often the primary caregiver."

The institute presented the findings to lawmakers and other public officials at its annual fall forum Tuesday at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Read 1351 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 January 2012 20:52
Login to post comments