Advocates for families affected by incarceration took part in an event at the Capitol Friday. Dee Ann Newell runs Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, a nonprofit that raises awareness about the growing numbers of incarcerated mothers and the issues that affect their children.
“We still don’t have the degree of public awareness about the mere existence of these children,” said Newell while looking over her notes for a speech in the Capitol Rotunda. “In Arkansas, we have a pretty good estimate that there are 60,000 children on any given day who have experienced or currently experience a parent being behind bars.”
Newell says there is an enduring set of traumas and issues children face when they have a parent in prison.
“When you increase the number of women going to prison, you increase the number of children who are impacted,” Newell said. “There are nine times more children who have fathers in prison, but the significance of incarceration of mothers of minor-aged children is that they were typically the primary caregivers for the children before the incarceration so it’s a more profound and real loss for the children.”
In order to correct some of the ills families face, Newell admits lawmakers need to advance family-friendly policies that allow some inmates better access to visits with their children.