Over 100 advocates and members of San Francisco’s youth community gathered at City Hall Thursday for a public hearing to address the needs of young people with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated parents.
Called by Supervisor Malia Cohen, the hearing sought to investigate and find solutions to gaps in services for this unique and vulnerable population. It will seek to look closer at the gaps in mental health services, education, stability in housing, visiting policies and total familial impact.
“I believe that we as a city, the Board of Supervisors and the criminal justice system, must acknowledge the systemic gaps in services for this incredibly unique but very vulnerable population. Systemic incarceration has a specifically deleterious effect on minority and low income individuals,” said Supervisor Cohen.
“We need to take responsibility for ensuring that children of incarcerated parents are taken care of and thereby reducing cyclical and generational incarceration.”
According to the 2011 Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Needs Assessment, 17,933 children and youth in San Francisco had a parent who had spent time in either county jail or state prison in 2010.
However, there is no comprehensive data available about the number of youth who have experienced parental incarceration, or the support services they may need.
“One in 28 American kids has a parent behind bars. Locally, 49 percent of the inmates in our county jail are parents. Last year, our nationally-recognized Children of Incarcerated Parents program improved the lives of 63 San Francisco families affected by incarceration through counseling, visitation and working with child welfare departments,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
“For a child, the pain of separation from a mom or dad is compounded by the stigma of incarceration. These children have committed no crimes, and we should do everything we can to reduce the impact of incarceration on their lives.”
This hearing comes at the heels of the Board of Supervisors’ recent historic action to end discrimination against formerly incarcerated people with the passage of the Fair Chance Ordinance, and several of our city departments and offices are exploring novel alternatives to out-of-home detention, as well as ways to increase support for formerly incarcerated people.
“This hearing represents the work that me and my peers have been working so hard on, and through hard work and determination youth can make a difference. Having our voices taken into consideration means that we have the possibility of a better future and not having to pay for our parents mistakes anymore,” said Azizi Loyd, Project WHAT! Youth Advocate.