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Save America's Children Proposes New California Prison Program to Keep Children of Inmates From Following Parent's Path


June 17, 2013 - SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Calling the 292,000 California children who have a parent incarcerated in a prison one of the most at-risk populations in the state, Save America's Children: Movement of Love, a non-profit grassroots organization created in the wake of the tragic Columbine shootings in 1999, today launched an initiative to build a pilot videoconference system to allow inmate parents the opportunity to visit virtually with their children and help steer them away from following in their footsteps.

"Significant research exists showing the increased likelihood of children falling into a pattern of crime, gang activity and substance abuse without close parental supervision or an adult role model as they grow up," said Kate Leonard, president of Save America's Children. "The distance between families and state prisons or inmates sent to other states to serve their terms, along with the exorbitant costs families incur to call inmates through the prison phone system, creates a vast gulf within families and poses an unintended harm to these children."

According to the Department of Corrections, California currently incarcerates over 300,000 men and women in over 33 state prisons, 40 camps and 12 community correctional facilities at an annual cost of over $11 billion, with an average inmate cost of $49,000 per inmate. Males comprise 93 percent of the prison population with Hispanics accounting for 39 percent, 29 percent are black and 26 percent are white. The average age of an inmate is 37 years old, with approximately 124,000 people on parole. The return rate for parole violators is 51 percent.

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, there are 2.3 million Americans behind bars, which means one in every 28 kids has a parent in prison. That's up from one in 125 kids just 25 years ago.

"When we sentence someone to prison, we should not also be sentencing their children, but all too often that is what happens as their children fall into the same patterns and cycles that ensnared their parent," said Cruz Reynoso, the first Chicano Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. "It is incumbent on us to create a method that encourages good behavior on the part of an inmate in order to earn the ability to visit virtually with their children and steer them away from the path they took."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide remains the leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24 years in the U.S. In 2011 alone, more than 700,000 young people ages 10-24 years were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal injuries sustained from assaults.

In California, rates for deaths among young people show an alarming number of violent acts committed by other young people. This peer violence often arises when children engage in violent activity with no adult role model or parent to restrain, monitor or guide them.

"Save America's Children understands family contacts for inmates must be an earned reward and believes another system needs to be created, at no cost to taxpayers, providing additional incentives to inmates for good behavior, as well as creating new channels for children to be steered clear of potentially damaging behavior," Leonard added. "This pilot project will test the concept of increased parental supervision having a beneficial and meaningful impact on reducing youth violence, thereby eroding the seemingly endless cycle of perpetual violence and incarceration of young people in our prisons."

Save America's Children proposes the following pilot program:

  • Work with correctional authorities to designate two state correctional facilities to host an online visitation portal which can be connected with similar portals hosted at selected community churches in the Bay Area and Southern California;
  • Inmate families would come to a local community church, go online and meet with their incarcerated family member in a monitored video teleconference for a specified amount of time;
  • Only inmates with young children and on good behavior, would be granted periodic and regularly scheduled online visitation;
  • Save America's Children will work with outside technology partners to secure funding and equipment at no taxpayer cost;
  • Mental health experts will also monitor the progress of the program in keeping inmate children away from violence and to determine the program's overall effectiveness; and
  • Save America's Children will share its findings with correctional authorities and other interested parties after the first year of trial for evaluation.

"Save America's Children believes this pilot project can be the ultimate win-win scenario for correctional authorities, who gain additional incentives for inmate good behavior," MaryLou Thorne, executive director for Save America's Children said. "For taxpayers who are not burdened with the costs to develop and install this program and gain valuable cost savings by reductions in youth violence, and for the children of inmates who may be steered towards more productive and meaningful lives."

Save America's Children is currently exploring options for launching the program in coordination and cooperation with correctional authorities and is seeking:

  • Technology partners to provide the monitors and webcams;
  • Broadband partners to provide the installation and online access at prison facilities and churches;
  • Funding partners to pay for the ongoing costs associated with online access, maintenance and repair; and
  • Mental health partners to evaluate the program's effectiveness.

In addition, Save America's Children has already partnered with the Richmond Improvement Association, a faith-based community alliance led by Rev. Andre Shumake Sr., Bethel A.M.E. Church led by Rev. Phillip Cousins and Gangs Anonymous to help identify and coordinate with local Bay Area community churches interested in serving as hosts for the initial family visitation portals.

Save America's Children: Movement of Love
Save America's Children was founded with the belief that the loss of a positive adult role model causes at-risk youth to regress and results in their joining gangs to seek role models, with crime and violence following. Through its programs, SAC reaches out to assist estranged fathers who are physically or emotionally absent, equipping and assisting them in reconnecting with their wayward offspring and having a profound effect, not only on the lives of the fathers and the children, but on society as well. For more information, please visit: www.sac-mol.com.

Contact:
James Lee
The Lee Strategy Group, Inc.
Tel: (424) 229-2753
Email: Email Contact

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