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.

About the Author

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder serves as the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO). She was a featured TEDx speaker at the first-ever TEDx event in Lancaster.  http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Breaking-out-of-prison-thinking 

She is an NIC-certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist, a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, and a certified instructor for the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Healing Communities model. She is also a trained restorative justice mediator.

Prior to Melanie's involvement with the RMO, she spent several years researching and writing the book Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity (Brethren Press, 2009), which tells the true story of a woman who volunteered in Pennsylvania's state prisons for over 30 years, creating inmate education and reentry programs based on principles of restorative justice. After Grace Goes to Prison was published, Melanie traveled throughout the United States, doing speaking engagements and meeting with other reentry and restorative justice professionals to discuss criminal justice issues and exchange information and ideas.