Arkansan Honored For Work On Behalf Of Kids With Parents In Prison

Jun 12, 2013

An Arkansas woman, who founded a group that advocates on behalf of children with incarcerated parents, was honored Wednesday at the White House.

Dee Ann Newell, executive director of Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, was one of 12 people from around the country honored as a “Champion of Change.”

“It was a terrific honor to be there and to have the opportunity to learn about the new roll out of federal policies that the Obama administration has been working on in this interagency group concerned about children that are enduring the incarceration and separation from their parents,” Newell said.

About one in every 28 children in the U.S. has a parent in prison, Newell says, and she supports measures being implemented, though she doesn’t feel they go far enough.

“The hope is that when the feds start introducing the policies to their system, it will seep down to the state and county levels as well and we can see some softening of the impact of parental incarceration and separation on these children.”

For 25 years, Newell has advocated measures like having established protocol when police arrest someone with their children present to minimize that traumatic scene.

She also supports, when people are sentenced to federal prison, which can often be out of state, having people serve their sentences as close as possible to their children.

Newell also hopes to see programs to divert parents convicted on non-violent offenses into programs that can help them avoid jail time.