What are some obstacles that may arise while visiting their incarcerated parents? (Dress Code/Contact Rules for Visitors of Minnesota Inmates, Visiting Applications and Rules for Visiting an Inmate in Minnesota)

Visiting an inmate in Minnesota comes with its own set of obstacles like every other state. Knowing what these are and how to deal with them can make a visit go smoother, thereby, making it more favorable for the inmate and the visitor. This not only adds to a healthy relationship with an inmate but has been proven to lower the recidivism rate. 

While these obstacles aren’t necessarily harmful, it helps to be prepared as visiting encourages inmates to not only better their lives, but it gives them something to look forward to. There is a lot of stigmas attached to visiting someone in prison, and many people don’t know where to start. While many states differ, here are some important notes to consider in Minnesota.

  1. You must fill out a Minnesota Inmate Visitors Application. There may be other forms needed to fill and sign no be prepared with proper documents and a wait of at least one of several weeks after submitting. 
  2. The Department of Corrections won’t inform you if the application was accepted or not, but the inmate will. Keep communication lines open with the inmate for information.
  3. Phone calls aren’t accepted, but you can stop by the nearest department of corrections with your ID and check on the status of an application.
  4. Regular visits are 1-2 hours for those traveling less than 100 miles. If traveling more, appointments may be granted at a 3-hour timeframe. 
  5. Bring a valid ID like a state ID, driver’s license, passport, or military ID. They must not be expired.
  6. All electronics are prohibited. As much as you may want to record a video of you and your loved one, it won’t be possible. Usually, your car key and ID are all you’ll be able to have on you.
  7. Another obstacle is that visitors are searched and must pass through a metal detector. Your vehicle may get search as well so be prepared for it.

While it may seem as there are a lot of obstacles, preparing for them ahead of time can and will make things go quickly. Minnesota’s facilities all have a dress code. While it may seem odd to have to dress a particular way, it exists to ensure the safety and security of the institution. The dress code is reasonably extensive, and I encourage you to visit: Visiting an Inmate in Minnesota for more details. 

Obstacles are part of life when wanting to visit an incarcerated parent. While the red-tape may seem to think and paperwork substantial, you’ll realize that it’s a necessity to visit. The welfare of a child and that of the incarcerated parent depends on these visits. Video visitations are offered as sometimes the drive is too long and maybe best for everyone as it is easier on the schedule. 

The Minnesota Department of Corrections does have a checklist here about what needs to be done and how to do it. Familiarize yourself with this page as necessary to ensure your next visit goes smoothly and successfully for all parties involved.

Prison Pro. Visiting an Inmate in Minnesota. http://www.prisonpro.com/content/visiting-inmate-minnesota

Minnesota Department of Corrections. Policy Number 302.100. My 15, 2018. http://www.doc.state.mn.us/DocPolicy2/html/DPW_Display_TOC.asp?Opt=302.100.htm


What are the effects of Parental Incarceration on Caregivers?

Being a caregiver comes with its own level of stress, but being a caregiver when one of the parents is in prison adds to the problem. When the father goes to prison, the sole caregiving is put on the mother. Most of whom are single heads of the household. When the mother goes to prison, the grandparents become responsible for the well-being of the child. 

A caregiver’s job is difficult, to say the least, because it comes with a host of hardships and new realities. Many times, the single parent needs to play both mother and father while the other parent is behind bars. Children coping skills rely on the caregiver to protect and nurture them, which can be double-duty with the incarcerated parent away.

In truth, caregivers can and will feel a sense of overwhelming stress in their lives as this adds another level of problems dumped into their laps. This also includes a serious financial impact of incarceration for the caregiver. 

  1. Forty-one percent of children with incarcerated parents live with families that have an income of less than one-hundred percent of the federal poverty level. 
  2. Seventy percent of caretakers are over middle-age or over fifty with fifty-five percent of children living with a caregiver who doesn’t have a spouse. Nineteen percent live in households that have four or more children.
  3. Caregivers have to make a decision on whether to leave a job to take better care of the children. If they aren’t working, then they risk losing their retirement savings to pay for the needs of the children.
  4. The income of a family over the years of an incarcerated father is twenty-two percent lower than before his incarceration. This is a huge cut in income.

Some caregivers not only worry about the children’s health but theirs as well. With many caregivers over fifty, they have their own health problems as well and must cope with finding ways to make those limited resources work. 

The emotional impact on caregivers can range from outright anger to resentment towards the incarcerated parent or even the children. Additional stress can create an unneeded burden that many aren’t prepared to deal with. These forms of stress can come in many forms.

  1. The incarcerated parent may want to have an active parenting role and not see things the way the caregiver does. This sends mixed signals to the children and can cause problems in the family’s relationship.
  2. At times, that resentment can flow into not taking the children to the prison for a visit as a way to punish the incarcerated parent.
  3. Many mothers left to being single and solo parenting feel a strong need to make a new life for themselves. This escalates the divorce rate to fifty percent.

Caregivers often feel judged by others and find themselves hiding from society’s shameful gaze. This can lead to withholding of information and avoid attempting to get help from others. This can cause estrangement from the rest of the family while the caregivers rebuild their lives.

Prison Fellowship. 2019. Impact of Incarceration on Caregivers. https://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/training-resources/family/ministry-basics/impact-of-incarceration-on-caregivers/


What are the social effects of having an incarcerated parent? Chemical, Mental, and academic impact?

No one fills the sting of incarceration more than the child. Because of this, the effects, both short-term and long-term, can involve skipping needed healthcare, smoking, risky sexual behaviors, alcohol/drug abuse, both prescription and illegal. These problems affect more than five million children who have a parent in jail.

The loss of a mother to incarcerated as a double impact on the child than the father. With the U.S. having the highest incarceration in the world, children and even young adults have become the invisible victims in this shared sentence. African Americans have the highest rate of parental incarceration of roughly 34% with an incarcerated mother and 23% with a father. This shows that the U.S. has failed to address the indirect-costs of its citizens.

Parental-child attachment is easily disrupted by a parent’s incarceration. This leads to many social and behavioral problems in life. These problems come in many forms: Sadness, fear, guilt as a few examples of a child’s reactions. 

These can develop into emotional issues as well: Anger, aggression, failed friendships as school, depression, which can exasperate underlying problems bubbling under the surface of the psyche. Education Professor Glen Palm of St. Cloud State University, developed a two-step process to help decrease negative behaviors. 

  1. Understanding and Awareness: Oftentimes, a caregiver doesn’t know how they should explain a parent’s absence to the child. Once the child has the situation known, they have a stronger chance of adapting to the new life-event.
  2. Visitation with the Incarcerated Parent: While reality differs from what’s portrayed on TV, children may not always understand why they have to wait extended periods before seeing their parents in prison. A lot of times, these visits limit close parent-child reactions.

Children with either parent incarcerated have a higher likelihood of experiencing physical and mental health problems.

  1. PTSD has an increase of 72%
  2. Anxiety increases by 51%
  3. High Cholesterol by 31%
  4. Asthma by 30%
  5. Migraines by 26%
  6. ADD/ADHD by 48%
  7. Behavioral Problems by 43%
  8. Depression by 43%
  9. Marijuana use by 43%
  10. Developmental delays by 23%
  11. Learning disabilities by 22%
  12. Delinquency by 10%

These increases have a profound effect on children with an incarcerated parent and can have long-term impacts that spill into adulthood. Their cognitive and noncognitive problems are directly linked to an incarcerated parent and create challenges for teachers and schools that are sometimes too difficult to overcome without some form of intervention. It’s an issue that educational lawmakers must address but have little to no experience in confronting. 

Children of incarcerated parents suffer from many social issues like chemical, mental, and even academic problems. Facing the problem head-on with education for the child and regular visits will help lower these problems and also lower the recidivism of the incarcerated parent. 

Muller, Robert T. May 7, 2015. When a Parent Is Incarcerated. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-trauma/201505/when-parent-is-incarcerated

University of Minnesota Medical Board. July 17, 2018. Incarceration of Parents Impacts Health of Their Children Into Adulthood. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180717102807.htm


Should children reunite with parents after incarceration? Why or why not?

Many factors help with the reunification of parents and their children after parole. In the Boston Reentry Study (BRS), a quarter of children were living with their parents before his or her incarceration. Upon release, this dropped to 10%. Even though the vast majority of inmates reported weekly contact with their children, it was only 60%-70% after the release. 

Many of these studies and findings of the BRS included in-depth quantitative interviews with those who were incarcerated. Many of the things that shaped incarceration to reunification were family support, drug use, criminal activity, economic security, and even criminal justice.

Other processes shaped reunification for the good and bad. While many of us take these for granted, many who are incarcerated and even children of those parents in prison do not always have these privileges.

  1. Stable Housing: Housing stability is a major factor in the reunification of a formerly incarcerated parent and their child. At least half of the parents were living in unstable housing at some point during the first year after release from prison. Unstable housing is generally defined as any temporary housing situation, which can make it harder for a child to stay with their parent. This can include living on the street, shelter, and even transitional housing.
  2. The Complexity and Supportiveness of Families: A parent-child relationship is hugely impacted by family structure. Those parents who used to be incarcerated and also have children with multiple partners are less likely to be living with their children after release. On top of this, parent-child relationship quality was affected by the level of the relationship before incarcerated. This can drop by 50% due to each additional partner, which can highly affect the child.
  3. Drug Use and Crime: Many inmates continued to use drugs and alcohol within a year after release were less likely to be living with their children or even be in regular contact with them. This includes any criminal activity. This can have a destabilizing effect on the child and make it difficult to reconnect with a child after prison release.

Formerly incarcerated parents that have had regular contact with their children and live in a stable household can have a positive effect on the child’s well-being and the parent’s recidivism. Reentry doesn’t just affect the child and parent but can be felt across three generations of the household.

In America, over five million children are currently experiencing some form of incarceration of their parents during a point in their childhood. Whether or not a child should reunite with their parents after incarceration isn’t an easy decision, as many factors are involved in influencing this decision and shouldn’t be made lightly. One can help, and that is strengthening the family relationships of incarcerated parents not just during the time spent in prison, but after release as well. It’s not just for the child’s well-being but also a key factor in helping a parent stay out of prison and help rebuild their lives and strengthen family bonds.

Hague, Alyssa. August 29, 2018. Factors That Shape Parent-Child Reunification After a Parent is Released From Prison. https://ifstudies.org/blog/factors-that-shape-parent-child-reunification-after-a-parent-is-released-from-prison



What are the effects of Parental Incarceration on Children?

Children are often considered the “hidden victims” of incarcerated parents. Once the parent gets behind bars, few think of the problems a child may have in dealing with this new life event and what it can do to their emotion, physical, social, educational, and financial well-being. Many of these children fall through the cracks of the system without being given a platform to be heard or acknowledged.

Many problems arise due to involvement within the criminal justice system. These challenges can be a psychological strain, antisocial behavior, issues at school, economic hardship, and even criminal activity. It’s hard to predict what will happen to a child with an incarcerated parent as research findings are mixed.

Since the “War on Drugs,” in the ’80s, the rate of children with incarcerated mothers jumped to 100 percent and fathers at 75 percent. It is estimated that 11 percent of all children may be at risk. Having a parent in incarceration is the only thing to consider for stressful situations for children. The whole range of the criminal justice program needs to be considered.

  1. Arrest.
  2. Pre-trial detention.
  3. Conviction.
  4. Jail.
  5. Probation.
  6. Imprisonment.
  7. Parole.

Each child is unique and handles things differently. Research has established that parent’s incarceration can prove threatening to the overall well-being of the child. 

  1. Child Criminal Involvement: There is some concern that a parent’s incarceration could lead to intergenerational criminal behavior. One statistic indicates they are six times more likely to become incarcerated themselves. This seems to be higher with mothers that are incarcerated than fathers, but many times, these risk factors are difficult to understand or predict.
  2. Psychological Problems and Antisocial Behavior: Depression and aggression have been mixed and varies with gender, race, age, and even the family situation. Some antisocial behavior falls into criminal acts or persistent dishonesty. This can also include mental health issues and even drug use.
  3. Educational Attainment: There is a constant association between educational attainment and parental incarceration. Though more research needs to be done to provide a clearer picture, this is still a huge risk factor for children of incarcerated parents.
  4. Economic Well-Being: Many children have restricted financial resources when they have an incarcerated parent. Many times, the family’s income is 22 percent lower than normal and 15 percent after the parent’s re-entry into society. Children of incarcerated parents face a host of disadvantages like being less likely to live in a two-parent home or even have stable housing. 

With all these considerations, enhancing communications between the correctional facilities and the families is a good way to ensure the child’s safety net for the future and even help the re-entry of the incarcerated parent. These are critical to a child’s well-being, whether it be emotional, financial, antisocial, or even educational. Improving the system to hear and see the child’s point of view is necessary for their psychological and physical development.

Martin, Eric. March 2017. Hidden Consequences: The Impact of Incarceration on Dependent Children. https://www.nij.gov/journals/278/pages/impact-of-incarceration-on-dependent-children.aspx


What feelings do children experience when having an incarcerated parent?

Children are emotional, to begin with. As they grow, so do these emotions. Added stress or a huge change in life events can turn their world upside down. This is the case for children who have incarcerated parents. Many of them mourn the loss of this parent in their lives who was once there to take care of them. Others mourn what “could’ve been.” 

This tragedy is a reality for many children who are forced to go on with a parent in prison. These things are a sudden change for a child and are often too young to understand why. Understanding what a child goes through needs to be understood. This has a profound psychological effect on the child and changes how they view life compared to other children.

  1. Emotion Trauma: Consider the issue of a child’s emotions and mindset if they are present when a parent is arrested. 
  2. School Work Suffer: Kids have enough problems while in the public school system. Add in potential bullying when classmates learn that a child’s parent is in prison. This can lead to bad attendance and even their grades suffering. 
  3. Sudden Financial Crisis: Sometimes, the incarcerated parent was wage-earner. This alone can throw the family into an immediate crisis as the main source of income is now gone.
  4. No Warning: There’s no way to prepare a child for this as arrest, and even incarceration is a sudden thing. 
  5. Worry About the Parent: A child knows the parent is in trouble. They also worry about things but may not understand why. 
  6. Separation by Distance to Prison: This is even harder for the child as many prisons can be a few hundred miles away and they have no control over whether or not someone will take them to see their parent. 

These kids are normal, like every other kid, but facing extreme life-changing situations. While they committed no crime, they are paying a cost they can’t pay due to another’s crime. This can cause confusing emotions and trauma that isn’t visible.

  1. Worry: They are worried about their incarcerated parent. Even if the parent-relationship is troubled, they also worry about whether their current caregiver can take care of them.
  2. Sadness: The child is dealing with a big loss and fall into depression. This can have a greater effect during the holidays or birthdays.
  3. Isolation: Social stigma can keep many children from opening up about their situation. This comes into play by avoiding conversations about the parent.
  4. Anger: This comes over time and after experiencing much disappointment and loss and is caused by a lot of hurts, and they feel they can’t take anymore.
  5. Guilt: Many kids feel a form of responsibility for their parent’s incarceration always wondering if they could’ve done something.
  6. Confusion: Many caregivers don’t tell the children that their parent is incarcerated. This can make a child afraid to ask, which confuses as to what’s going on.
  7. Fear: Abandonment is a genuine fear of children, along with the thought of never seeing their parent again. This can translate to other phobias in a child’s life.

While some of these emotions come and go, so it can be quite pervasive and stay overtime. It’s important to research protective factors to help the child cope with the loss of an incarcerated parent. Their well-being depends on it. 

Prison Fellowship. Impact of Incarceration on Children. https://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/training-resources/family/ministry-basics/impact-of-incarceration-on-children/