Prison Family Bill of Rights

Now that we’ve looked at children’s rights with a parent in the PIC, what about rights of the family?

The blog Razer Wire Women reports on the Prison Family Bill of Rights after attending the2012 National Prisoner’s Family Conference. Their blog post is essential in this conversation.

First of all, how do they identify family?

The term “Prison Family” is herein defined as including, but not limited to, a blood or adopted relation, spouse, domestic partner and/or trusted friend designated by an incarcerated person upon or during a period of confinement as one who will serve as an outside contact on his or her behalf for the relaying of any communication regarding the medical and mental health, security status and location of the incarcerated person and/or for making critical decisions on behalf of the incarcerated person in the event of his or her incapacitation..

What are the rights that prison families have?

The Prison Family has the right to be treated with respect and dignity by any and all representatives of the prison system at all times.

The Prison Family has the right to expect and be assured the utmost care is established and maintained to provide a healthy and safe living environment that promotes effective rehabilitation, reintegration and parole planning throughout a loved one’s incarceration.

The Prison Family has the right to be treated and integrated as a positive resource in the process of rehabilitation and reintegration preparation and parole planning of an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to receive consistency in the enforcement of rules; regulations and policies affecting a loved one’s incarceration.

The Prison Family has the right to receive consistency in the enforcement of rules; regulations and/or policies affecting visitation and/or all forms of communication with an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be informed in a timely, clear, forthright and respectful manner of any changes in rules; regulations and/or policies affecting visitation and/or communication with an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be informed within 24 hours and in a compassionate manner regarding the illness; injury and/or death of an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to extended visitation during the hospitalization of an incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be informed within 24 hours of the security status change and/or transfer of an incarcerated loved one to a new facility.

The Prison Family has the right to be provided specific written and evidenced-based reasons for a loved one’s
security status change; clemency denial and/or parole denial.

The Prison Family has the right to have their incarcerated loved one housed within a distance from their permanent address that provides reasonable access for visitation and/or to facilitate serving as a resource in the rehabilitation and reintegration  preparation and parole planning of their incarcerated loved one.

The Prison Family has the right to be provided the current specific name or names and direct phone numbers of prison officials to contact for questions about their incarcerated loved one.

(Their blog emerged after the printing of their book, which looks to be one to add to your ever growing ‘to read’ list,: Razor wire women : prisoners, activists, scholars, and artists.)

Do these family bill of rights have anything to do with prison librarianship, especially since the library serves the family member that is imprisoned? Heck yeah! Prison librarians can foster programing that supports family on the outside, similar to the Children of Incarcerated Parents – A Bill of Rights#8:  I have the right to a lifelong relationship with my parent.

For example, programs that offer parents to have story time in person or via distance by audio recording or video with their child is an example of a practice attempting to maintain a healthy family communication and closeness while one is not at home. Below is a news channel’s video that will give you somewhat of a feel about story-time programs.

Resources Benefiting Families/Re-entry Benefiting Families provides more than just this program to maintain and foster parent and family relationships, which are not library-focused. For example, other programs include the Marriages That Matter program, life skills for offenders and their family members too, and a Fatherhood Initiative.

Additional Resource:

Travis, Jeremy and Michelle Waul, eds. Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, 2003.

This is part of a series on exploring some prisoners’ rights that affect prisoners as patrons. Other blog posts include:

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My Mom/Dad is in Prison: Children’s Rights and Information Needs

Beyond seeing people behind bars as a special patron group with specific information needs, children with parents behind bars also need to be seen as a patron group to supply information needs to and specifically  included in collection development.

To learn more about what happens to children when their parents enter the Prison Industrial Complex, you can read the Urban Institute’s report Families Left Behind: The Hidden Costs of Incarceration and Reentry

Children with parents in prison have their own bill of rights entitled:

Children of Incarcerated Parents – A Bill of Rights.

  1. I have the right to be kept safe and informed at the time of my parent’s arrest.
  2. I have the right to be heard when decisions are made about me.
  3. I have the right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent.
  4. I have the right to be well cared for in my parent’s absence.
  5. I have the right to speak with, see and touch my parent.
  6. I have the right to support as I struggle with my parent’s incarceration.
  7. I have the right not to be judged, blamed or labeled because of my parent’s incarceration.
  8. I have the right to a lifelong relationship with my parent.

The San Francisco Partnership for Incarcerated Parents have an extended pdf that explores each one of these rights, gives next steps to achieve these rights, and personal stories.

Remember Reading Rainbow? They featured this episode, Visiting Day, focused on families with a parent in prison in their series. It aired December 15, 2004 and January 17, 2005. Watch below!

I once read that the child of a parent behind bars copes similar to that of a child who lost a parent through death. Therefor, the reading experience, like bibliotherapy, can create a dialogue where coping can begin. Now, what books are there? You can find book lists at ALA’s Association for Library Service for Children which organizes book by age group… or here, here, here, and here!

Here are some more sources:

S & F Online by Barnard Center for Research on Women: 8.2 (Spring 2010) Children of Incarcerated Parents 

National Conference of State Legislatures’ Children of Incarcerated Parents

National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated

This is part of a series on exploring some prisoners’ rights that affect prisoners as patrons. Other blog posts include: