The work of the church often highlights the depravity of government policy. I found this to be particularly true in this Mennonite Weekly Review article about New Horizons, a women’s prison ministry associated with Skyline Mennonite Church in Canon City, Colorado. In short, the ministry offers volunteer nanny services for children of incarcerated mothers.
The story is well worth the read. Policy is not the focus of this ministry, but by caring for the children of these incarcerated mothers and faithfully attending visitation sessions, the active love of Jesus radically counters policies which can affect generations.
Federal law mandates that if a child is in foster care for 15 months out the last 22 month period, states are authorized to begin the process of terminating parental rights. As of 2007, more than 60% of incarcerated women were to serve more than 24 months in their sentences.
Women with such sentences often see their children go into the foster care system if another family member is unable to care for them. In other words, the punitive sentences can result in more than incarceration, it can also be a termination of parental rights, affecting parents and their children drastically.
Interested in more resources? Here are a few:
- Click here for a fact sheet on women in the criminal justice system.
- “What Will Happen to Me?”, a book and photography essay by Howard Zehr and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz looking at the lives of children of incarcerated parents.
- Click here to read a Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents.