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Responding to Children and Families of Prisoners: A Community Guide

NCJ Number
Ann Adalist-Estrin; Jim Mustin
Date Published
February 2003
This document presents information on programs and services for the families and children of inmates.
There are over 2 million prisoners in the United States. Interest in programs and services for families and children of prisoners has been growing recently. While each family’s experience is unique, there are some common themes. Many families find that people seem to withdraw from them. There is often a sense of shame and a fear of being labeled. There is often a struggle for economic survival. Women carry much of the burden imposed by the incarceration of a family member. Men and women alike experience many difficulties maintaining relationships with an incarcerated family member. The incarcerated family member is almost always out of touch with everyday family life. One child in 40 has an incarcerated parent. Chapter 1 further describes the impact of the criminal justice system on families. Chapter 2 describes the choices of programs, including education, health care, and social services, and the challenges of relevance, attitude, and complexity. Chapter 3 focuses on getting programs started and taking action in reaching out to families of prisoners. Chapter 4 describes the networking, funding, training and technical assistance for programs. Responding to the complexity of needs in families of prisoners is a challenge to communities. Communities will need to create safety zones, identify needs, and provide services to successful service delivery. Barriers to this include negative public attitudes, multiple risk factors, fragmentation of service delivery systems, racism, and prejudice against prisoners and their families. This work will require collaborations between and among many agencies. Appendix