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Program for children of incarcerated mothers in jeopardy

August 5, 2019

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A program serving children with mothers in prison is in jeopardy after the Oregon Legislature ended its funding.

The Statesman Journal reports the Family Preservation Project connects more than 400 women at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility with their children, providing supervised visits, parent coaching, resource centers and post-prison support.

One of the project’s programs, Between the Lines, lets incarcerated parents read books into recorders then mail the recording and book to their children. Others support those taking care of inmates’ children by offering camps, donations and gifts.

Funding for the past two bienniums provided $400,000 per biennium, which represents about half of the program’s budget, said Family Preservation Project Director Jessica Katz.

But after state support failed to pass in the recently ended legislative session, there is a scramble to raise $200,000 to continue operating until the next session in February 2020.

In the United States, more than 2.7 million children have parents serving time in prisons and jails. Since 1991, this number has doubled, partially due to increasing female incarceration rates.

A 2016 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 68,000 — 8 percent — of Oregon children have had a parent serve time in prison or jail.

An estimated 80 percent of incarcerated women are mothers to minor children.

In 2010, the Oregon Department of Corrections funded the family program at Coffee Creek prison in Wilsonville in an effort to address the impact of incarceration on mothers and their families.

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