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 interests of children whose parents become involved in the criminal justice system.
Many of the original founders, along with others who share their mission, make up CIC’s board of well-established community members and leaders.
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 to determine whether to advocate for a prison nursery to be established in Minnesota.
The interns changed course and recommended, instead, that CIC advocate to keep parents out of prison, in the community, with their children. This recommendation was based on their research examining the consequences of parental incarceration in the United States, as well as the costs and benefits to community-based alternatives to incarceration.
Hence, the organization chose a new name, Children of Incarcerated Caregivers (CIC), to match the new focus. Reports generated by the summer interns were presented at CIC’s first annual community forum at the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus.
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 the visitation policies existing in jails and prisons across the state, they realized that there was a preliminary issue that needed to be addressed: Publicly available information about how to visit jails and prisons was unclear.
Two of the 2016 interns took on the task of writing up a report that analyzed jail and prison websites in Minnesota and created an infographic to depict their findings. Their work has been shared with other organizations including the Association of Minnesota Counties working group that focuses on parental incarcerations’ impact on families. This collaboration is an example of how CIC uses its research to influence and support work of others in the community with similar goals.
Two other interns—in keeping with CIC’s model of drawing from experiences of other organizations in the U.S. and abroad—looked at innovations in visitation programs occurring in Europe and South America and generated a second report and infographic. A fifth intern created a digital library that includes links and descriptions of videos focusing on children of incarcerated caregivers, a notably missing resource.
The findings from these reports were presented at the second annual CIC research presentation in the fall of 2016.
Advocating for Change
In 2017, two CIC summer interns created an in-depth report on the harms of parental incarceration. The report and a fact sheet of key points have been distributed to professionals working in the criminal justice system.
A third summer intern expanded on CIC’s research and looked at the impact that parental detention during immigration proceedings has on children.
A fourth intern painstakingly researched modes of public transportation to and from Minnesota prisons. Her evaluation demonstrated the hardship faced by families without vehicles who hope to visit a loved one in prison. CIC is using this work to advocate for the expansion of reliable, compassionate transportation options for children who wish to visit their parents in prison.
In 2018, CIC will continue to build on the work done in previous years: continuing to provide training and creating awareness of the harms of parental incarceration and the benefits of alternatives; expanding research and advocacy to include an investigation of harms children suffer when parents are detained in immigration proceedings; partnering with educators to look for ways to support children whose parents are incarcerated; and supporting initiatives to provide transportation and a better experience for children who want to visit their incarcerated parents.