An arrest can start with a knock on the door, or perhaps a roadside apprehension. Sometimes it happens right in the courtroom. However a person enters the U.S. prison system, there is one consistent outcome: an unplanned separation from the people closest to them.
For imprisoned parents, staying connected with their kids typically requires navigating a frustrating, unresponsive network of prison officials, county officers and social workers who are ostensibly there to help but often lack the tools to do so.
A pilot program under review by the Philadelphia Prison System and the state's Department of Human Services is designed to cut through some of the red tape. Now in its tenth month at Riverside Correctional Facility, which houses roughly 800 women, the program uses videoconferencing to give incarcerated parents with children under county supervision a more active role in the decision-making surrounding their kids.
In a column for Next City, a Philadelphia-based non-profit outfit that focuses on issues of urbanization, journalist Christopher Moraff, a 2013 John Jay/HF Guggenheim Reporting Fellow, looks at the program. For the full version of his story, part of a project looking at America's women-in-prison crisis, please click HERE.