After a five-hour car ride, a young girl and her father have reached a dull looking building. Inside they both wait over an hour processing paperwork and frisked. The little girl hesitantly shakes her head no, when the guards ask her if she has anything metal on her. She is then forced through the metal detector with her father closely behind her. The guard leads them into a waiting room. After some time goes by, a woman is led into the waiting room wearing a dingy jumpsuit. The little girl’s eyes fill with tears as she screams, “Mommy!”
Prison is certainly the right place for violent and career criminals, and some offenders commit crimes that endanger their own children. But many prisoners are not dangerous, and separating them from their families is not necessary to hold them accountable for their crimes and keep the public safe. Prisons are for people we are afraid of but we are imprisoning many people we are just mad at.
Studies also show that children of inmates who are able to visit with their parents have increased cognitive skills, improved academic self-esteem, and greater self-control, and they change schools much less often. The improvement of the children has an amazing impact on the incarcerated parent, too, with significantly reduced recidivism of the parent after release.