For Mother's Day, Advocates and Legislators Rally in Harlem for the Rights of Children of Incarcerated Parents

10 May 2019

Legislation would Address New York’s Homegrown Family Separation Crisis

New York, NY - May 10, 2019 – Today, state lawmakers and a broad coalition of advocates, children of incarcerated parents, and community leaders from the Osborne Association, We Got Us Now, Release Aging People in Prison, the NY Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, Brooklyn Defenders, The Bronx Defenders, and Coalition for Women’s Prisoners gathered at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building to acknowledge Mother’s Day and call for immediate action to support and strengthen in-person visiting in New York State jails and prisons.

There are approximately 80,000 children in New York State with a parent in prison. Most of these children deeply miss and want to visit their mothers or fathers, yet distance is a barrier, and many of New York’s 54 prisons are not accessible by public transportation. Currently, there are three bills before the New York Senate and Assembly that would address these issues: the Visiting Bus, Proximity, and Codifying Visiting bills will improve children’s access to their parents, strengthen family connections, and promote the correctional and public safety goals of rehabilitation and successful reentry. 

The coalition called for the Senate and Assembly to pass the Proximity Bill S724/A6710 (Senator Montgomery/AM Rozic), DOCCS’ Family Visiting Bus bill S731A/A5942 (Senator Montgomery/AM De La Rosa), and AM Weprin and Senator Sepulveda’s bill (A2483/S2698) that would protect in-person visiting at Stateprisons and local jails by codifying the right to in-person visiting into State law. This bill would ensure that video visits never replace in-person visits as we have seen happen in jails across the country.

“Ensuring that a parent who is incarcerated can be placed in a facility closest to their child when possible is not only critical to successful re-entry, but also to mitigate the strain of family separation that can severely impact a child throughout their parent's sentence. This proximity bill (A6710) is a step towards improving the ways in which DOCCS can provide a more rehabilitative environment and reducing recidivism across the state,” said Assembly Member Nily Rozic.

“Osborne is proud to stand with our legislative leaders to call for the passage of this critical legislation. When passed, these bills will increase children’s access to their parents during incarceration. Distance is a huge barrier to visiting – bringing parents closer and restoring the visiting buses that ran for decades would mean that many children could spend Mother’s Day with their moms who won’t be able to do so this Sunday. We call on the NYS Senate and Assembly to pass these bills and support children and their critical relationships.” – The Osborne Association

“There is nothing that can replace receiving a hug or kiss from a parent for a child. When a parent is incarcerated that should be no different. The NYS Bills that support In-Person Visits, Free Bus Transportation and Bringing Incarcerated Parents to Facilities in Closer Proximity to Their Children addresses some of the emotional needs of a child when dealing with the experience of parental incarceration. Passing these bills would declare the importance of keeping families connected when a parent is incarcerated.” – Ebony Underwood, CEO, We Got Us Now

“A visit and a loved ones touch is essential for anyone incarcerated in our jails and prisons. These important pieces of legislation not only support maintaining family relationships, they also validate the hardships families and loved ones experience everyday with incarceration. We must continue to prioritize support systems, because they are vital for ensuring incarcerated people return safely to our communities.” – Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director, Brooklyn Defender Services

“When a parent goes to jail, we shouldn’t punish the entire family. it is not the fault of their children. But the practice of preventing or limiting children’s ability to visit, be comforted by, bond with and to love their parent punishes them as if they were guilty. Incarceration does not terminate the relationship or sever the bond between a parent and a child. The criminal system disproportionately affects the most socioeconomically disadvantaged and racially marginalized communities, where resources are thin and travel is costly. We must make visitation with parents who are incarcerated easily accessible and convenient for children and families so that they can continue to visit as much as possible. Maintaining these bonds is essential to parent and child reunification post incarceration.”– The Bronx Defenders

“The Legal Aid Society strongly supports this critical legislation that seeks to keep families together. New York State incarcerates more than 20,000 people from NYC hundreds of miles away from their communities and their loved ones. While the true solution to this problem lies in decarcerating jails and prisons, we must reinstate the free bus program from NYC and lift the ban on daily visits in medium security prisons to help ensure that families, regardless of wealth and access, stay connected during incarceration. This is the right thing to do, and study after study demonstrates that maintaining family ties helps incarcerated people reintegrate home after release, helps children of an incarcerated parent grow up to thrive, and fosters ties to the community.” – Legal Aid Society

“As an organization whose sole mission is dedicated to supporting justice impacted women and mothers, we have worked with over 500 women who return to Long Island after incarceration and often become the primary caretaker for their children. When a parent is incarcerated their children suffer exponentially as a result. For children whose parent is behind bars, safeguarding the right to be able to see their mother means they will suffer less trauma and distress and experience a quicker, safer path to family reunification. We urge the NYS Legislature to pass these three important visiting bills which take into account the needs of children with an incarcerated parent.” – Serena Liguori, Executive Director, New Hour for Women & Children LI

“The bond between a mother and child is important and not broken by incarceration.”
 – Mary D.

“It is very important for us as mothers to have consistent communication with our kids as it is for our kids to have communication with us.” – J.S.

“It is very important for parents to be closer to their children no matter the situation. It would be nice for us parents to have consistent relationships. Please help.” - Mother in Riverhead Jail

The three bills are currently moving through the legislative process in the New York State Assembly and Senate:

1. The Proximity Bill (S724/A6710) passed Finance Committee in the Senate and is in the Codes Committee in Assembly 

2. The Codification of In-Person Visiting Bill (A2483/S2698) passed the Senate and is in the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly 

3. The Visiting Bus Bill (A5942/S731A) passed the Assembly Correction Committee and is now in the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly. Having cleared committees in the Senate, the bill is now scheduled for a floor vote. 

One in 28 children in the U.S. has an incarcerated parent on any given day—more than 105,000 children in New York State have a parent in jail or prison. The racial disparities inherent in the criminal justice system extend to children: 1 in 9 African-American children, 1 in 28 Latino children, and 1 in 57 White children have a parent who is incarcerated. Maintaining family ties during incarceration decreases recidivism, and supports family reunification and children’s well-being.

The Osborne Association’s New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents (NYCIP) convenes more than 60 agencies and community and faith-based partners throughout the state to advance policies and practices that support children of incarcerated parents and their families. NYCIP raises awareness about this often overlooked population of children and elevates their voices.

 

CONTACT: 

Jonathan Stenger, jstenger@osborneny.org, 347-306-0853