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Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Bill of Rights

3/31/2004:   More than 2 million American children have a parent behind bars today—50% more than a decade ago. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that one in 32 adults is under some form of correctional supervision (probation, prison, or parole), affecting10% of the population under the age of 18.

Children of prisoners have a seemingly daunting array of needs, from a safe place to live and people to care for them to everything else a parent might be expected to provide: food, clothing, and medical care. But some of the most important and immediate needs can easily be met by all adults who touch the lives of these children. Young people need to be told the truth about their parents’ situation. They need someone to listen without judging, so that their parents’ status need not remain a secret. They need the companionship of others who share their circumstances, so they know they are not alone.

To that end, the San Francisco Partnership for Incarcerated Parents has created a Bill of Rights for these children based on legal cases and interviews with young people and their families. The hope is that the criminal justice and human services systems will eventually consider the needs of the families and communities affected by crime and to support these children to improve their chances for success, so they will be come Children of Promise instead of Children of Prisoners. To view a copy of the complete Bill of Rights, visit www.cwla.org/programs/incarcerated/cop_billofrights.htm

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