Harrisburg, PA – At recent listening sessions between Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel and friends and family of inmates hosted by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter suggested that all DOC facilities incorporate arts and crafts into visiting rooms to alleviate trauma children experience when visiting their incarcerated parents.
Some facilities already had supplies available, but now because of Lassiter's suggestion, every DOC state prison has arts and crafts supplies available for inmates to use to interact with their children during normal visiting hours.
"We understand the important relationships between parent and child, and we want to foster the continuation of those relationships through contact in our visiting room," Sec. Wetzel said. "We are going a step further by allowing incarcerated parents the opportunity to share in creativity with their children through arts and crafts. I've tasked each state prison to come up with its own individualized plan to implement this new arts and crafts component to inmate visitation; therefore, the types of crafts could differ from prison to prison, but the ability to interact in some form will be consistent across the prison system."
"As a social worker and volunteer in the prison system, I have seen first hand the trauma children experience when their parent is incarcerated, and it compounds with every visit while the positive bonding experience is diminished," Lassiter said. "Creating a positive atmosphere during visits allows the natural bonding between parent and child to occur. It allows relationships to flourish, which serves the overall goal of rehabilitation and a more positive outcome for our children and the inmate."
Coloring books, markers, paper and other craft supplies will be made available during visiting hours. All materials will be kept in a secured location and will be used only in the children's play area. A visiting room officer will issue supplies and monitor their use. Incarcerated parents will be able to take the craft back to their cell immediately following the visit.
"We've listened to inmates and their families and realize that recent policy changes, while made in the name of employee and inmate safety, have made some individuals feel cut off from each other," Sec. Wetzel said. "Thanks to PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter's suggestion, adding this component to in-person visits allows a personal connection to take place using prison-approved and prison-purchased items, while ensuring the safety of our staff and inmates by eliminating a path of drug introduction."
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