Children of Incarcerated Parents Network in Lancaster

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Wednesday - February 29, 2012.

children-iStockLancaster: Recently, a broad-based coalition of organizations joined together to offer programs for children whose parents are incarcerated. The mission of the Children of Incarcerated Parents (COIP) group is to "strengthen the family bonds and developmental assets of children of incarcerated parents and their families". For additional information, call 717-872-7794 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Provide support to the child and their caregiver from the moment of arrest;
  • Refer the family to one of the many local agencies who work with families;
  • Work with schools in helping the child cope with this event in their young lives;
  • Advocate for appropriate visitation facilities and policies for children to have physical contact with their incarcerated parent;
  • Provide support to the child's caregiver.

Members of the coalition include:

Lancaster County Children and Youth, Boys and Girls Club, COBYS Family Services, Restorative Justice,
Kon-nectingservice, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Crispus Attucks Community, Justice and Mercy, Lancaster County Council of Churches, Compass Mark, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Bridge of Hope, Domestic Violence Services, Mental Health America, School District of Lancaster, Tabor Community Services, MidPenn Legal Service, and LINC.

PA Launches Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Sunday - February 12, 2012.

Harrisburg (WPMT-TV, York, January 27, 2012): Governor Tom Corbett today encouraged members of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a newly-formed panel of judges, lawmakers, state cabinet members and other officials, as they begin studying ways to increase public safety in Pennsylvania and reduce spending on corrections. "The justice reinvestment working group is here to look at the numbers, the costs, thegavel-and-money projections and the system" Corbett told the gathering at the Governor's Residence this morning. "We look to you to come up with solutions to make our system better. I expect this initiative will help reduce further our crime rate, decrease recidivism and manage corrections spending more efficiently."

Led by Mark Zimmer, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, the group will meet regularly during the next several months to review data analysis, hear from local government representatives, prosecutors and public defenders, victim advocates, treatment providers and others, before crafting policy proposals. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is a comprehensive, research-based approach that identifies factors driving the growth and costs in prison and jail populations. The data-driven model is designed to...

  • Develop and implement policy options to control and lower the costs of the state's corrections system;
  • Improve offender accountability;
  • Reinvest a portion of the savings into the justice system to further reduce corrections spending;
  • Reinvest a portion of the savings into the community to prevent crime;
  • Measure the impact of policy changes.


Contributing to the project is the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice. The CSG Justice Center, which has helped policymakers in 15 other states using a justice reinvestment approach, reported the following about Pennsylvania at today's meeting:

  • Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people admitted to prison climbed 46 percent, with much of this growth driven by increases in the number of people convicted of property and drug offenses serving relatively short minimum sentences.
  • Over this same period, the number of people in prison grew 40 percent, from 36,602 to 51,312, and annual Department of Corrections spending increased 76 percent, from $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion.
  • Despite significant state investments in resident programs for people on parole supervision, a 2011 study showed that recidivism has declined but remains high: nearly half of people (44 percent) released from prison were re-incarcerated within three years.

"Today's meeting identifies issues that need to be addressed, and I am confident this group will work hard to use the data and other information gathered to make legislative proposals which will try to strike the delicate balance between public safety and reducing costs through improved efficiencies and prison population reduction," Zimmer said.

"The scale of this effort is exactly what Pennsylvania needs to see the complete connections that take place from the time someone is arrested all the way through discharge to parole supervision," Wetzel said.

"With the extensive data analysis and stakeholder input in this process, policy makers from across the political spectrum will develop strategies that answer a fundamental question we all ask ourselves: What more can we be doing to increase safety in our communities while getting a better return on taxpayers' investment?" "This is an excellent example of officials working together, across systems, levels of government and parties toward the common goal of improving the safety of our state," Corbett said.

The Caging of America

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Sunday - February 12, 2012.

sands-of-timeNew York (The New Yorker, January 30, 2012):A prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic-the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn't the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates. The inmates on death row in Texas are called men in "timeless time," because they alone aren't serving time: they aren't waiting out five years or a decade or a lifetime. The basic reality of American prisons is not that of the lock and key but that of the lock and clock.

That's why no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia-anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded. "Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard, / Some of us are prisoners, some of us are guards," Dylan sings, and while it isn't strictly true-just ask the prisoners-it contains a truth: the guards are doing time, too. As a smart man once wrote after being locked up, the thing about jail is that there are bars on the windows and they won't let you out. This simple truth governs all the others. What prisoners try to convey to the free is how the presence of time as something being done to you, instead of something you do things with, alters the mind at every moment. For American prisoners, huge numbers of whom are serving sentences much longer than those given for similar crimes anywhere else in the civilized world-Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teen-agers to life imprisonment-time becomes in every sense this thing you serve.

PA Report on Children of Incarcerated Parents

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Sunday - February 12, 2012.

Harrisburg, PA: House Resolution No. 203, Printer’s No. 1321, of 2009 was adopted on June 3, 2009, and Senate Resolution 52, Printer’s No. 708, of 2009 was adopted on June 8, 2009. The resolutions directed the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to study the effects of parental incarceration on children of incarceratedparentsreportpicthe incarcerated parents; to recommend a system for determining and assessing the needs of children of incarcerated parents, services available to them, and barriers to accessing those services; and to report recommendations to the House and the Senate. To download a copy of the report, click here.

A 38-member advisory committee was appointed over the course of several months. Ann Schwartzman, Director of Policy of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, served as the chair. The advisory committee includes staff from the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, the Department of Public Welfare, the Department of Corrections, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, the Department of Aging, county government centers, police, and the Harrisburg School District. It also includes a judge, attorneys, college professors, representatives of various community-based and faith-based support services and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. The advisory committee held its organizational meeting on December 4, 2009 and met again on October 14, 2010 and January 16, 2011.

The House and Senate Resolutions reflect the growing awareness that children of incarcerated parents face unique obstacles unlike those of their peers. The first step in determining the needs of children of the incarcerated and designing effective interventions is to identify these children. Presently, no mechanism exists in Pennsylvania to collect and analyze data of this nature, thus the number and characteristics of these children cannot be ascertained.

Acknowledging the well-documented adverse effects of parental incarceration on children and its significant costs to communities, researchers identify two groups of recommendations that could help to solve or mitigate this problem.

New Miss America Speaks Out on Children of Incarcerated Parents

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Saturday - February 04, 2012.

From SentenceSpeak on January 17, 2012:World peace. Starving children. Curing disease. All noble, worthy, and traditional causes that many a Miss America has picked up and used her platform to champion. But to our knowledge (we confess that we are not devoted followers of the pageant), the new 2012 Miss America will be the first to champion the children of incarcerated parents -- mostly because she is one herself.

USAToday Reports

Laura Kaeppeler[Miss Wisconsin Laura] Kaeppeler, 23, has an unusual background. She says she thought long and hard as to whether she should make her father's jail time for mail fraud part of her pageant platform, reports AP. Her father, Jeff Kaeppeler, served 18 months in federal prison for mail fraud, a sentence he started when Laura was entering college. He was backstage Sunday night with his daughter, who called him her "best friend."

Kaeppeler's mission: She wants children of incarcerated adults to feel less alone, to have mentoring and as much of a relationship with their parents as possible.

She majored in music and vocal performance at a private Lutheran liberal arts college in Kenosha and initially said she wanted to become a speech therapist, but now Kaeppler plans to use her $50,000 scholarship money to become a lawyer, specializing in helping children of incarcerated adults.

Wahoo! We extend a warm, heartfelt welcome to Miss Kaeppeler and admire her for shining a spotlight (literally) on this important issue. The United States is the world's largest jailer, with 2.3 million in prison and an additional five on some form of court supervision. There are over 1.7 million children with incarcerated parents in our country. Draconian prison terms -- including mandatory minimum sentences -- perpetuate our addiction to incarceration when better, smarter, cheaper options exist (and would keep families together).

We applaud you, Miss America, and invite you to join us in our work for justice!  Visit Miss America's website, Circles of Support, for more information about her worthy cause.