Lawmakers on the House Democratic Policy Committee heard from researchers, corrections officials, and child advocates at a public hearing at the University of Pittsburgh last week regarding the effects a parent's incarceration can have on a child, said Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, requested and co-chaired the hearing. Rep. Wheatley was a co-sponsor of H.R. 203, which passed the state House in 2009 and called on the Joint State Government Commission to complete a study on the effects of parental incarceration on children. The final report was issued in December 2011.
"The Joint State Government Commission's report on the impacts of parental incarceration on children zeros in on what can be done to mitigate the negative outcomes associated with having a parent in prison," Mr. Sturla said. "The Commonwealth and smaller communities each have obligations to ensure children are protected and supported, and I applaud Representative Wheatley for being a leader in educating people on this issue."
"Children of incarcerated parents are innocent victims of the situation, and we must do all we can to help them survive and ultimately thrive. For example, I am hopeful that the new law that should keep more non-violent offenders out of state prison and in more appropriate settings will help in reducing children's separations from their parents," Mr. Wheatley said.
Those testifying at the hearing included: Helen Khanzhina, public policy analyst/project manager, Joint State Government Commission; Dr. Claire Walker, executive director of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation; Shirley Moore Smeal, executive deputy secretary, state Department of Corrections; Patricia Valentine, executive deputy director for Integrated Program Services, Allegheny County Department of Human Services; Anna Hollis, executive director, Amachi Pittsburgh; and Susan Frietsche, senior staff attorney, Women's Law Project's Western Pennsylvania Office.
For more information about the Policy Committee and hearing materials, visit www.pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee.