Sentencing Policy

JS Blog Post July 16, 2015

Let Our Families Have a Future: A mother's story #2

Theresa Martinez

In this video, Theresa discusses the impact that familial seperartion has had on her daughter's well-being. Theresa's incarceration resulted in years of seperation from her daughter who was forced to live a challenging existence in the foster care system. Theresa also discusses how children of color in foster care - who miss their parents so much - are over-medicated in an effort to make them more manageable. Please view Theresa's second blog post

 

 

 

JS Blog Post June 23, 2015

What It's Like To Spend Father's Day In Prison

Simon McCormack
Father's Day produces a complicated mix of emotions for the thousands of fathers in the U.S. who are imprisoned. "Father's Day is a uniquely difficult time of the year for me," dad and prisoner Bruce W. Harrison wrote in a note sent to The Huffington Post via nonprofit organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "It reminds me of the fact that I've served more than 20 years in federal prison. Decades of my life spent behind bars instead of time I should have been spending with my family." Harrison and three other dads shared their feelings of pain, remorse and hope with HuffPost in the heart-wrenching notes below, which have been edited for length and clarity. For a complete article turn to this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/19/fathers-day-behind-bars_n_76236...
JS Blog Post April 23, 2015

Parental Incarceration's Destablizing 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 12, 2015

Advancing Family Integrity for All: Sentencing Reform Affecting Parents

Patricia Allard

Following the September 4th, 2014 Hill briefing – Prioritizing the Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents in the USA (see January 2015 blog posts) - co-hosted by Justice Strategies and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Justice Strategies launched a much needed campaign, Advancing Family Integrity for All. It is time to refocus our attention on the children left behind as a result of parental incarceration. Children are the silent victims of our country’s tough on crime policies. By honoring the right to family integrity of children who have a mother or father facing a possible prison term, promoting alternatives to incarcerating parents, and offering the necessary socio-economic supports to help families thrive, we can finally prioritize children, families and communities while upholding public safety.  Advancing family integrity for all enhances public safety for everyone.

Advancing Family Integrity for All seeks sentencing reform at the federal and state level. We offer the following four principles as guidance for reform:

1. At the pre-sentencing hearing of an individual convicted of an offense, the Court should be required to ask whether the person is a parent; Read more »

JS Blog Post February 26, 2015

Garnering Support for Policy Change: Family Impact Statement

Allison Hollihan, Program Manager, Osborne Association’s New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents

This blog focuses on the needs of children and how Family Impact Statements (FIS) can ensure that the needs of children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system are considered when important criminal justice decisions are made; it’s a story of progress and ongoing work to be done. A Family Impact Statement contains information about a defendant’s minor children and parenting responsibilities and describes how various sentencing options might affect these. When public safety is not compromised, FIS may support an alternative to incarceration or a shorter sentence length to minimize collateral consequences. However, FIS are not commonly used and garnering support for policy and practice change can be challenging. Here, we share how the Osborne Association’s New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents collaborated with New York State (NYS) probation professionals to encourage the inclusion of FIS in pre-sentencing investigation reports for the courts. Ultimately, we rebranded FIS as a Family Responsibility Statement (FRS) to garner the support needed to encourage the inclusion of information about a defendant’s children and parenting responsibilities in pre-sentence investigation reports developed by probation officers in New York State. Read more »

JS Blog Post February 19, 2015

From Sing Sing NY Correctional Facility:A father's experience of parenthood

Patricia Allard

The host of Death, Sex & Money (production of WNYC), Anna Sale, interviews Lawrence Bartley in this 40-minute podcast. The podcast entitled “I killed someone. Now I have 3 kids” aired on Wednesday, December 17, 2014. The podcast offers insight into the life of Mr. Bartley, a 41 year old man, who in his teens unintentionally shot a 15 year old innocent bystander in a movie theatre in NYC. While in prison, Mr. Bartley married his middle-school sweetheart, and they had two sons together. Mr. Bartley speaks about the struggle his family and he face as a result of his incarceration. The following are two excerpts from the interview:

And what do you and your wife tell the boys when they come here, how do you explain it? Read more »

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.

Syndicate content