Friday, June 14, 2013

Have you ever wondered what life is like for a child whose parent is in jail?

If not, don't worry - you're not alone.

Because of the work I do in a nonprofit whose mission is "to redirect youth who are starting to get in trouble at home, at school or with the law," I think about it a lot since that is the experience of many of them. It's no surprise that children tend to follow in the footsteps of their parents. And our criminal justice system is filled with inequities that ensure that - as much as possible - the experience is one that affects "those" children rather than "ours."
  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population 
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites 
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
  • According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today's prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
  • One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime 
  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison 
  • Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).
If considering the impact of those inequities on children is something you're interested in learning about, please take a couple of minutes to watch this powerful performance by Daniel Beaty.

One thing we have to do to change all this is to fight the inequities that lead to this kind of experience for the little Daniel's of the world.

But for too many black and brown children, that change isn't coming fast enough. We also need to reach out to them to ensure that we hear their pain and are there to support them in making their own choices.
That's why its a BFD that Sesame Street is weighing in on something that so deeply affects "those" children. They have developed a tool kit called Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration. I must admit that I teared up a good bit as I looked around that web page and watched some of the videos. On behalf of lots of little ones who don't have much of a voice in our system, I want to say a gigantic THANK YOU to Sesame Street for this one.

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