Oh man — this is both heartwarming and heartbreaking: a while back it was announced that Sesame Street would introduce a muppet who had a parent in prison. It’s now launched a website specifically for children with parents in prison.
Unfortunately, few resources exist to support young children and families coping with this life-changing circumstance. These children have to deal with the confusion, shame, and anger that accompany the sudden absence of a parent. The 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent share similar experiences, but they don’t often feel comfortable talking about them. Their parents and caregivers don’t often know how to begin the conversation, and at times discourage children from mentioning it to other adults in their life, such as teachers and extended family.
In order to support children with an incarcerated parent and help them persevere through such a challenging experience, Sesame Workshop launched the Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative. The bi-lingual (English/Spanish) resources include videos and a storybook for children to help support and comfort them, videos and guides for parents and caregivers to help them find the language to talk about incarceration with their children, and a resource for the incarcerated parent that highlights the importance of communication.
The initiative was specifically developed for families dealing with the challenges of incarceration, but the struggles of children with an incarcerated parent are something people across the country should understand better. In order to raise awareness about the experiences of young children with an incarcerated parent, we created the below animations. Feel free to share them and spread awareness about the experiences of this underserved community of children.
Related side note: it pains me to say that my home state is the prison capital of the world.
(Louisiana) imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.
The hidden engine behind the state’s well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.
Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.
If the inmate count dips, sheriffs bleed money. Their constituents lose jobs. The prison lobby ensures this does not happen by thwarting nearly every reform that could result in fewer people behind bars.
So, um, yeah, thus the need for Sesame Street Incarceration. Sigh.