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Summer Archives

Michelle Spada

Nashville, TN - independent study (Faculty Fellows)


There are currently 2.5 million children in the United States who have a parent in prison, and when probation and parole are included in the count, more than 10% of U.S. children currently have a parent under correctional control. Parental incarceration has both physical and emotional effects on children at every stage of development, and children with an incarcerated parent are 6 times more likely to go to prison themselves. With a rapidly escalating prison population, there is both a major necessity and opportunity to address the needs of children of the incarcerated. The purpose of my project was to research the impact of parental incarceration on children in the United States and to gather information about the services and policies available to promote resilience among these children and to stop the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. In collaboration with my Faculty Fellows Advisor, Professor Woods, I researched different organizations across the United States that are advocating for or providing services to children of the incarcerated. I visited prisons and talked with wardens and experts about prison visitation policies. In addition, I attended support groups for children and caregivers to learn more about people’s personal experiences with parental incarceration. Finally, I attended a conference hosted by the American Bar Association called “Children and the Law” to better understand how the legal system interacts with the needs of these children. At the end of this project, I created a handbook of organizations and services that exist to encourage and enable collaboration amongst the organizations, I distributed a list of best practices that I found in the field, and I gathered my collected knowledge into a paper that will hopefully be published by the Tennessee Justice Center and other outlets to increase awareness about the needs of children of the incarcerated.