Throughout my career, I have served the children of incarcerated men and women. This has been especially challenging for me because I have such empathy for the children that I serve. I don't know what it is like to have a parent who is incarcerated and cannot speak or see them. What I do know is African-American men and women are seemingly sentenced in higher numbers than other ethnic groups. For example, 'The Sentencing Project,' a nonprofit that advocates criminal justice reform, looked at incarceration rates for ethnic groups in every state, using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Here are some of the most striking findings:
- In state prisons, African-Americans are incarcerated at 5.1 times the rate of whites.
- Five states — Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin — have a disparity of more than 10 to 1.
- Twelve states have prison populations that were more than half black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
- Maryland has a prison population that’s 72 percent black.
- In 11 states, at least 1 in 20 adult African-American men is in prison. In Oklahoma, it’s 1 in 15.
- Latinos are incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of whites.
What I have learned while serving the children of incarcerated men and women is it is difficult for the students and their families to find reliable transportation and travel within and out of state to see their parent. It is expensive for my students to speak to their parent on the phone because the calls from inmates because they are priced very high. My students miss their parent(s) and every aspect of their lives are affected.
Serving as a school librarian and working with the children of incarcerated men and women, leads me to locate resources that will help me serve them better. Yes, I have had parents reach out to me for assistance and I gladly did so because I'm a librarian and my job is to serve all of my patrons. The following is a new and valuable television resource that has provided me with a deeper understanding of incarceration and re-entry process in this country. Another resource is of course a valuable booklist that has been helpful for me to continue to do the work that I do.
Inmates For Change - One of my friends Mr. Jones, a fellow Chicago southsider and business man, is making a difference in the lives of former incarcerated men and women. He is the founder and CEO of Inmates for Change, an organization that:
- Is dedicated to breaking the bondage of destructive thinking.
- Providing “brokerage” services to ex-offenders at the county, state and federal levels,
- Provides re-entry services to returning citizens and individuals with felony convictions,
- Supplies teachers with a classroom curriculum model of critical thinking, interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, spiritual connectedness,
- Links men and women to vocational training opportunities and residency assistance.
His show can be viewed on CAN TV, an independent non-for-profit cable news station in Chicago. Viewers can also view current and past shows on their YouTube channel and call in during their live shows at CANTV.org/hotline. Take a moment and view one of the shows where Mr. Jones discusses why the “old you” has to die in order to live so that one can successfully re-enter society.
For more information about Inmates For Change, please contact email@example.com.
Book Lists (K-12 and Adult) -
Books where the protagonist has one or both parents in jail/prison
For Young Children
Youth.GOV - A Government run agency that provides support for the children of incarcerated parents
The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated
If you have any resources that you would like to share, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will gladly include them on this post so that it can help others.