Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

#LoveLetters on Father's Day: Children Send Videos to Dads in Prison

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

#LoveLetters on Father's Day: Children Send Videos to Dads in Prison

Article excerpt

Mass incarceration in the United States has many critics, not least are the 2.7 million children who currently have at least one parent behind bars. In this "land of the free," which boasts only five percent of the world's population, fully 25 percent of the world's prison population languishes.

Many groups challenge this system, promoting reform of the judicial system that has produced such statistics. But in the meantime, some of those who suffer most are the children growing up without the guiding influence of one or more of their parents.

In an effort to both raise awareness of the situation and shine a light into the shadows that often crowd such children's lives, Google began a campaign on Mother's Day to facilitate the sharing of videos from children to their imprisoned mothers. This Father's Day, Sunday June 19, the initiative, christened #LoveLetters, continues.

"The videos reveal a side of mass incarceration that many people don't get a chance to see," wrote Malika Saada Saar, Google's public policy and government relations senior counsel, for civil and human rights. "They allow us to bear witness, to be proximate to the very human costs of incarceration."

A sad fact is that many first-time, nonviolent offenders who end up serving time are parents, often to young children. Blacks are imprisoned at a rate almost six times higher than whites, and a black child is 7.5 times likelier to have a parent in prison.

But regardless of race, the impact on a child of growing up with a parent confined in a correctional facility can be traumatic. Indeed, in an April report entitled "A shared sentence," the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that such experience can be as devastating to a child's well-being "as abuse or domestic violence."

These children feel the absence of that adult -- whether it is several nights in jail or years in prison -- in myriad ways, even if they weren't sharing a home. They feel it when their refrigerator is bare because their family has lost a source of income or child support. …

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