Fun and Games in Federal Prison for Inmates' Children

December 9, 2013 - 12:39 PM


(AP File Photo)

( - In an effort to re-connect children with the incarcerated parents they rarely see, the federal Bureau of Prisons threw a system-wide party a week ago.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons held its first-ever "Universal Children's Day," an event intended to deepen family bonds. Nearly 8,500 children visited more than 4,000 federal inmates, the Bureau of Prisons said.

"I was pleased by the large number of children that were able to visit with their incarcerated parents," Bureau of Prison’s Director Charles E. Samuels blogged on the Justice Department website.

"Our institutions across the country collaborated with their local communities to make the event a tremendous success and many featured activities such as storytelling, face painting, parenting workshops, family worship services and holiday-themed arts and crafts. At Oklahoma’s Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, dairy calves were on hand for a petting zoo and fire trucks were featured from the local fire department."

Samuels said this was the first time some inmates had read a book or drawn a picture with their child.

"My hope is that this is just the beginning for many mothers and fathers, of a sustained journey back into the lives of their children and their roles as parents. We are always looking for new ways to help inmates enhance their parenting and other skills that are related to a successful return to the community."

Each federal prison gave families a packet of booklets, DVDs, parenting tip sheets and children's coloring books, all aimed at helping children cope with having parents in prison.

The Justice Department estimates that on any given day, nearly two million children under 18 have a parent in prison, and many more have had an incarcerated parent at some point during their childhood.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department said it was part of an "aggressive campaign" to provide children of incarcerated parents the support they need.

Among other things, the White House has launched a Children of Incarcerated Parents Web Portal, with information about federal resources, grant opportunities, best practices, and government activities designed to support children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers.