By  Diane Aisha Sears   Image courtesy

Once upon a time we were a village.  Now life was not perfect, but the village’s greatest treasures and most vulnerable members – its children and its Elders – for the most part, were loved, protected and respected.  Parents, extended family members, educators, school administrators, religious leaders, health care professionals and providers, social services professionals and providers, the business community, legislators, and neighbors worked together to help positively shape the minds and souls of the children of the village. In their eyes, children were the “Promise of a New Day” and the “heart and soul” of the village. The village symbolized hope – it was a vibrant oasis.  Today, a dark cloud of chaos and hopelessness hovers over the village as it grapples with chaos, fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and rising violence.  It is difficult to feel loved, protected, and safe or to dream about and plan for your future in an environment that is besieged by chaos and hopelessness.  Perhaps we simply need to rebuild the village.  Perhaps it is time for the children who were once raised by the village to, in some way, raise the village.

Through a powerful two-tiered initiative – Fathers And Children Together  (F.A.C.T.) – Mr. Sam Brown, the Chairman of Unity Community Action Network (UCAN) and Mr. Luis Gonzalez, President of the Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization (L.A.C.E.O.) at SCI Graterford are raising the village by helping the village raise its children.  F.A.C.T. is the result of a historic collaboration among African American and Latino incarcerated men at SCI Graterford to resolve the key challenges of Fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, the “school-to-prison pipeline” and violence that serve as obstacles to living a happier, healthier, and longer life and helping our children – the Next Generation of Leaders, Husbands, Fathers, Wives, and Mothers – from maturing into purpose-driven, productive, and successful adults.  Under Mr. Brown’s leadership, fathers at SCI Graterford are reunited with their children while mothers are simultaneously moved into the Fatherhood equation.  The initiative is fully embraced and supported by Pennsylvania State Representative The Honorable Ronald G. Waters.  F.A.C.T. is a national model to resolve Fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, and the “school-to-prison” pipeline that provides an orientation session and workshops for Fathers incarcerated at SCI Graterford and visitation with their children.  The conclusion of the program is punctuated with a graduation ceremony where participating Fathers receive a certificate.

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Children of Inmates – Reaching Out, Re-Building, Re-Connecting Lives

Children who have incarcerated parents often have no idea why their parent is no longer at home. There is pain, confusion and lonlieness. Within the Miami area, there are more than 15,000 children who have one or both parents in prison.

The Miami and faith-based organization Children of Inmates works with local services to help strengthen the bond between these children and imprisoned parents. The belief is strong that by keeping this bond strong, the trauma will be minimized.

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Center For Restorative Justice Works

Did you know that California has the largest prison system in the nation? There are over 46 adult prison/correctional facilities that incarcerate almost 200,000 men and women – and this leaves nearly 200,000 children without one or more parent. Those are shocking numbers!

Children of incarcerated parents are often left in either foster homes or with grandparents. They can spend years not knowing what it is like to grow up with a family bond.

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