Children of Incarcerated Caregivers (CIC) was formed when a group of professionals—including lawyers, scholars, and community activists—got together and realized they shared a common concern: promoting the best interest of children whose parents become involved in the criminal justice system.
Today, this diverse group of well-established community members and leaders makes up the CIC board.
The Prison Nursery Project
The Minneapolis-based non-profit was founded in 2015 and initially had a different name—The Prison Nursery Project. The first group of CIC interns (an interdisciplinary team of five advanced undergraduate and graduate students) began their summer internship in June of 2015 with a plan to focus on researching prison nurseries.
When it became apparent that prison nurseries were only a part of the story, the interns changed course and expanded their research to examine the consequences of parental separation that typically accompanies parental incarceration in the United States, as well as the costs and benefits to alternatives (which included prison nurseries, but also community-based alternatives and visitation).
Hence, the organization chose a new name, Children of Incarcerated Caregivers, to match the new focus. Because prison nurseries are the norm in other countries and CIC is dedicated to having both an international and domestic focus, one of the 2016 wrote a report looking at prison nurseries in an international context while the remaining interns created a detailed domestic report. The key findings from this research was presented at the first annual CIC research presentation at the Weisman Art Museum.
An Unexpected Discovery
In 2016, the second group of interns experienced a similar shift in specific research focus. They began with the goal of investigating the quality of correctional visitation and its impact on children.
However, when they began to examine what types of visitation existing in jails and prisons across the state, they realized that there was a more pressing issue that needed to be addressed: The difficulty families faced navigating abstract and obtuse visitation instructions found on the websites of Minnesota jails and prisons.
Two of the 2016 interns took on the task of writing up a report that analyzed these sites in Minnesota and created an infographic to depict their findings. Two others—in keeping with CIC’s commitment to an international agenda—looked at innovations in visitation programs occurring in Europe and South America and generated a second report and infographic.
The findings from these reports were presented at the second annual CIC research presentation. A fifth intern created a digital library that includes links and descriptions of videos focusing on children of incarcerated caregivers, a notably missing resource.
We plan to hire a new team of interns in 2017 to investigate the topic of prison and jail visits. However, our focus will be on how the arts (defined broadly to include writing, song, drawing, etc.) can be used in ways that improve the quality of visits for the incarcerated and their children.