The educational and emotional toll on families with parents in prison is devastating. Many incarcerated parents are depressed due to parent-child separation, do not want their children to know they are in prison, and avoid both visitation by and communication with their children. In their absence, their children’s educational and emotional progress can stagnate or regress, and the critical bond between parent and child can fail to develop or become strained.
Our Connecting through Literacy: Incarcerated parents, their Children, and Caregivers (“CLICC”), www.connectingfamilies.org, program uses literacy and mentoring to strengthen relationships between incarcerated parents and their children in two of Connecticut’s poorest cities.
CLICC made dramatic further progress in 2017, winning a 5-year, $660,000 grant to satisfy mentoring and literacy needs for incarcerated parents and their children throughout the state. CLICC aims to reduce recidivism and facilitate successful reentry outcomes by reconnecting incarcerated parents and their children by using a family literacy curriculum and providing supportive mentors.
Children and family members suffer during the incarceration period itself, and then again following the parent’s release from prison, as the family constantly readjusts to new structures. CLICC is a “book club” that begins while the parent is incarcerated and gives these parents and their children fun, interesting, safe subjects to communicate about while they are apart. CLICC builds a positive parent-child relationship before the parent rejoins the community, helping the family to move forward successfully. CLICC includes six months of in-prison mentoring and literacy work as well as six months of post-release mentoring, literacy work and family activities.
As a result, we designed our CLICC program to use literacy and trained, supportive mentors, to heal tense interpersonal relationships and provide stability and a positive learning experience for children and parents alike. Stronger family relationships act as a counterbalance, reducing the chance that the parent will become a repeat offender and return to prison. About half of male offenders in Connecticut now do so within five years.
Federal, State Support for CLICC
Following a successful pilot project with mothers at the Danbury Federal Institution in 2011, CLICC applied for and received a two-year grant for almost $300,000 under the federal Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act in 2013 to bring a second pilot program to two state prisons in Connecticut.
With support from the Connecticut Department of Correction, our program currently operates at correctional institutions throughout the state. Volunteer mentors meet once a week at the facility to help parents read books and write letters to their children. Children have their own mentors who do similar activities with them at community sites near their homes. We also provide referrals and incentives to children’s caregivers, who tend to have complicated relationships with the incarcerated parents, yet are so important to the future of these children and families.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons has encouraged this project from the start in the belief that it can be replicated throughout the federal prison system. Our goal is to have CLICC become a national model for the Bureau of Prisons’ 115 facilities.
Our Project Partners
CLICC is truly a joint partnership of government, organizations and individuals. Faculty and students at Columbia Teachers’ College developed the literacy curriculum materials. Professionals from Columbia University evaluate our program results. Volunteer mentors come to us from the University of Bridgeport, Sacred Heart University, Southern Connecticut State University, Yale University, United Way offices and throughout our communities. Literacy Volunteers of Stamford/Greenwich developed the training manual for these volunteers, who complete a 2-hour training course.
To find out more about CLICC, or to become a mentor or other volunteer, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Starting this relationship through books has not just benefited me, but has truly changed the life of my household as a whole by providing interesting ways for us to connect with each other and by broadening our perspectives in general through books.”
“I thank you for what you are doing for my daughter and me. It means more than you think.”
“We have something besides outside life to talk about.”
“CLICC brings you and your child together to build a stronger bond.”
“I want us to become more like mother and daughter, instead of like sisters. I think the CLICC program is giving us a great opportunity to open up communications together, and she is excited about it. Lately, she seems to be wanting more of a relationship with me.”
“Thank you for all you do for us and our children.”
“I want to learn how to keep a good relationship with my children and keep the lines of communication open, so they won’t forget who I am and that I love and care about them. With CLICC, the progress is good.”
“I truly thank CLICC for all you do — not just for me, but for everyone else. ”