Politics and the Church – Extrication From the Shoal Waters [Part 11]

This week we will look at the third category of families in danger…those with children of incarcerated parents, where one or both parents are incarcerated.  This now directly affects nearly three million children [Anna Challet, “It’s Chaos When They Return Home – Children and Parents Speak About Re-Entry”, New America Media, November 5, 2013].  There is also an additional nearly ten million children having a parent who is or was under correctional supervision [Ibid].  How are these children affected?  These children :

>   Have greater physical health problems…elevated rates of cancer, high cholesterol, asthma, migraines, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and diabetes [R.D. Lee, X. Fang, and F. Luo, “The Impact of Parental Incarceration on the Physical and Mental Health of Young Adults”, Pediatrics 131, 2013].

>   Have increased rates of mental health problems, including d! epression, anxiety, and withdrawal [J.M. Eddy and J. Poehlmann, Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners (Urban Institute Press, 2010)].

>   Have higher rates of educational difficulties, including cognitive delays, behavioral problems, and school failure [Ibid].

>   Have greater levels of material hardship as well as family instability…frequent moves, divorce, introduction of unrelated parental figures [Center for Research on Child Well-Being, Fragile Families Research Brief, Parental Incarceration and Child Well-Being in Fragile Families (Princeton University Press, 2008)]

>   Are 40 % more likely to have an unemployed father; 34% less likely to live with married parents; 25% more likely to experience material hardship; and four times more likely to face contact with the child welfare system [Ibid].

>   Have higher rates for abuse of drugs and alcohol; engaging in anti-social behavior; dropping out of school; or experiencing a decline in school work as well as having high levels of truancy, aggression, and disruptive behaviors [Z.K. Snyder, T.A. Carlo, and M.M. Coats Mullins, “Parenting From Prison: An Examination of a Children’s V! isitation Program at Women’s Correctional Facility”, Marriage and Family Review 32, 2001].

>   Are more likely to be incarcerated…70% will themselves end up in prison [National Crime Prevention Council, “The Need”].

The obvious solution to these problems is to break the cycle of parental criminal behavior so that parents can be with their children.  I can’t help but wonder if the other two family categories contribute significantly to this family category?  Currently in government-run prisons, both state and federal, the average recidivism rate is 68%…meaning that within three years of release from prison, that person commits another crime and returns to prison [Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Three in Four Former Prisoners in Thirty States Arrested Within Five Years of Release”, April 22, 2014].  Could this be because of government policy to advertise the pasts of individuals making it extremely difficult if not impossible to obtain credible employment?  If a person cannot earn an honest living he/she must revert to a ‘system’ that will at least provide life basics…and unfortunately for some that includes drugs and alcohol.  However, the recidivism rate is only 8% in faith-based prisons [Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion, “Can a Faith-Based Prison Reduce Recidivism?”, April 13, 2012].  That’s a 90% more effective approach than that of secular prisons.  The average cure rate in government-run drug rehab programs…state or federal…is under 20% [Burton W. Folsom, “Teen Challenge: Kicking Two Bad Habits”, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 5, 1996…reaffirmed August 4, 2014].  In fai! th based drug rehab programs such as Teen Challenge, the cure rate ranges from 62 to 84%[http://waysandmeans.house.gov/legacy/humres/105cong/10-28-97/1028batt.htm  reaffirmed on August 4, 2014].   Faith-based programs dramatically reduce the number of parents reentering prison, thus contributing to breaking the cycle of crime and family destruction.

After looking at the three categories of families in peril…the very basis of our nation and the strength of our ‘ship of state’…would it not be wise for our churches to invest in programs that will restore families and press our politicians to resend any programs that would tend to destroy God’s definition of the family?  It takes prayer for guidance but it takes Christian action to get our politicians off of ‘top dead center’.  Our families have been in the destructive mode…shoal waters…for a long time and will not recover over night.  With no action the situation will only get worse.

Next week we will look at a recommendation for a ‘fix model’ for families.  As critical as families are to this nation, certainly they should be a fairly frequent subject to be addressed from the pulpit.  If God’s churches…as contrasted with man’s secular houses of ‘feel good’…don’t get involved, the nation God and our Founders gave us will be ‘history’.

– Bob Munsey

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