A new National Institute of Justice (NIJ) report reveals how children with an incarcerated parent, and the grandmothers (or mothers of these children) who take them to visits, are quasi-incarcerated themselves as they navigate the difficult journey of prison visitation.
The following is the NIJ announcement of the new report “It’s Not All Cupcakes and Lollipops”: An Investigation of the Predictors and Effects of Prison Visitation for Children during Maternal and Paternal Incarceration.
Through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, NIJ has made available the following final technical report (this report is the result of an NIJ-funded project but was not published by the U.S. Department of Justice):
Title: “It’s Not All Cupcakes and Lollipops”: An Investigation of the Predictors and Effects of Prison Visitation for Children during Maternal and Paternal Incarceration (pdf, 172 pages)
Author: Melinda Tasca
A large segment of American society—predominately poor, minority families—has experienced incarceration in some way. The visitation room has become the only family "intervention" available in a system that has closed the door on rehabilitation. Families are forced to attempt to hit a “reset” button without the adequate tools or resources to overcome ongoing familial stressors related to financial hardship, prisoner’s substance use, mental health problems, and repeated criminal justice involvement.
This research examined the vulnerable family systems experiencing incarceration by assessing the ways in which they connect and the implications of such connections for the children left behind.
A major highlight of this study is the investment many overly burdened mother and grandmother caregivers put into prisoners through their facilitation of parent-child prison visits and the largely negative impacts on children that results from such efforts. In light of strained familial relationships and in the absence of treatment resources, the likelihood that the investment of time, energy, and money that prison visitation requires will pay off is slim.
What potential long-term impacts of exposure to parents through the prison system have for young children growing into adolescence and then adulthood remain unknown and a topic for future research.
Read “It’s Not All Cupcakes and Lollipops” here.