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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Toll On Children Another Reason For Continued Corrections Reform In Oklahoma

IN the discussion about the need to revisit crime and punishment in Oklahoma, much of the focus, naturally, is on the cost to the state. The Department of Corrections received $484.9 million from the Legislature a year ago, and could use more to better manage the annual growth in the inmate population.
Not all the costs are strictly dollars and cents, however. A report issued last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlighted the significant impact that incarceration has on the children of those who wind up behind bars.
Nationally, about 5 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives, according to the foundation. In Oklahoma, one in 10 children has had a parent in jail or prison at some point. That's roughly 96,000 boys and girls. We're one of six states where 10 percent of the children fall into this category; only
Kentucky (13) and Indiana (11) have higher percentages.
“Having a parent incarcerated is a stressful, traumatic experience of the same magnitude as abuse, domestic violence and divorce, with a potentially
lasting negative impact on a child's well-being,” the study said. More than 20 percent of children with parents in a state prison are 4 or younger — no doubt making the negative effects all the more impactful, considering the importance of those early formative years.
That separation from a parent, combined with a lack of support from others, “can increase children's mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and hamper educational achievement,” the report said. “Kids of incarcerated mothers, in particular, are at greater risk of dropping out of school.”
Oklahoma has long held the dubious distinction of incarcerating more females, per capita, than any other state. The report found that children whose mothers are locked up “are more likely than those with incarcerated fathers to end up living with grandparents or family friends or in foster care — and, as a result, tend to
experience greater disruption and instability.”
Oklahoma has about 11,000 children in its foster care system, which is overwhelmed by the volume of cases. The state has roughly 80,000 children living in homes headed by their grandparents. Oklahoma's high dropout rate, and its high rate of residents who need mental health and substance abuse treatment, have been well documented.
Statistics like these underscore the need to support programs that help mothers stay out of prison. ReMerge of Oklahoma County is one example. It holds selected participants to certain conditions while providing services to help their recovery from substance abuse and promoting responsible parenting. Women in Recovery, initiated several years ago in Tulsa County, is a similar program. Nonviolent female offenders with alcohol and drug addictions are given the support and training they need to keep them from winding up in jail or prison. These programs save money for the corrections system, but more importantly they help to restore families.
The Legislature has made some strides in recent years to reform Oklahoma's criminal justice system. Further efforts to reduce the prison population need to continue. This will help the state fiscally — and as the Casey report shows, will ease some of the considerable toll now felt by too many of our children.,,,Oklahoman Editorial Board

1 comment:

  1. Mom . Well if they stopped commited crimes, and be real parents, I fully believe all of this could be afforded. Commons sense lady and gentleman


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