July 28, 2014
Author Note: This research is dedicated to a distinct group of children who is often ignored by policymakers and the larger societies in the United States, yet who inspire many concerned citizens to help them make a difference. The essay is written for the Social Problems course in section SOC: 301.90 at Post University, and taught by Dr. Andrew Wagner.
Sociological perspectives of criminal behavior define certain systemic factors that can increase criminal conduct and sociocultural inequalities. Individually, most citizens rarely think about the possibility that those who commit crimes have children, even though many of them do. Currently, there are close to 2 million American children with one or both parents serving a sentence in a United States correctional facility. Not surprisingly, recent policy reforms to promote change in practices of the criminal justice system have paid little consideration to their negative effect on the children of prisoners. But as the nation’s incarceration rate rose in the last four decades, so were organizations emerging, thus helping many of this frequently overlooked children’s population.
Currently, more than 2.2 million women and men are serving a term in a U.S. prison or jail (Walmsley, 2013). Not surprisingly, this same land of democracy is also responsible for the largest number of children (nearly 1.7 million) with one or both parents incarcerated (Alessio, 2011). Though in recent years, incarceration rates seem to be declining slightly in a handful of states. New York is one of them showing a considerable downsize with an estimated 16.7% reduction from 95,000 in 2006 to its current 81,350 inmate count (Commission of Corrections, 2014). This particular decline is thought to be largely in part of a reduction in crime commissions. Conversely, despite the declines there are more than 105,000 children with either a father, mother or both parents currently serving terms in a NYS correctional facility (Krupat, Gaynes, and Lincroft, 2011). Many (including policymakers) consider these youths an “orphan issue” as their circumstances belong to no “oversight” body (p.8).
However, while U.S officials continue debating about prison overcrowding, and prevalent crimes; evolving organizations and mindful citizens have been focusing on bigger problems that touch the lives of millions of inmates’ children. One of those organizations refers to Hour Children, a non-sectarian agency providing relief services for nearly thirty years to children of inmates. Hence, this paper gives lecture to a small, yet extraordinary human services group whose purpose has been to help make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of children of incarcerated parents in New York State (Raeder, 2012).
The History, Mission and Vision of Hour Children
In 1986, Hour Children (HC) was officially named to emphasize – the important hours that shape the life of a child with an incarcerated mother – the hour of the mother’s arrest, the hour of the first prison visit, and the hour of the mother’s release (Hour Children, 2014). The mission of HC is – to help currently and formerly incarcerated mothers rejoin the community, reunify with their children and families, and build healthy, independent and secure lives (Hour Children, 2014). Its vision – is to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration (HC: Vision Statement, 2014). To accomplish these aims, HC gives emphasis to the importance of empowering each mother/offender with essential comprehensive services to become productive citizens, and have access to opportunities that will facilitate them to achieve life-goals and purpose. The organization’s tenets stem from the core value that all persons have the potential to change their lives for the better (Hour Children, 2014).
While services begin with the inmates, their children are HC’s primary clients and the