Talks to focus on
children of prisoners

Hawaii tops the nation in
the number of women put
in prison, a social agency says

More than 6,000 Hawaii children have at least one parent in prison, raising serious questions about their welfare, says Geri Marullo, Child and Family Service president and chief executive officer.

"The number of women being incarcerated in Hawaii is the highest in the nation," she said, citing an 11 percent increase per year. Most are in prison for drugs or property offenses, she said.

Concerns about the rapid growth of imprisoned women, coupled with issues related to "ice" use, will be examined at a conference Thursday and Friday entitled "Children of Prisoners: Impact on the Innocent."

The meetings will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

Marullo said it's believed about 3,000 parents are in prison, with children scattered in Child Protective Services, foster care or with relatives.

"We really don't know where they are," she said. "We're not really clear about specifics of our Hawaii prison population and the number of children involved."

Child and Family Service felt it should find out more about the problems and what the impact of future drug policies will be on children and the foster care system, Marullo said.

She said an analysis has never been done on short- and long-term costs of imprisonment from the standpoint of the child welfare system and the impact on children and the agencies involved.

"We know from research, children are more likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime if parents are imprisoned," she said.

Studies also have documented that children of imprisoned parents tend to have more behavioral problems, such as attention deficit issues, aggressive behavior, withdrawal, depression and difficulty concentrating academically, she said.

With most women imprisoned for nonviolent offenses, she said, "is that the best way of using our resources when there are other strategies, including drug rehabilitation, and other opportunities to keep families together?"

The Child Welfare League of America is sponsoring the conference with Child and Family Service. Blueprint for Change and the Salvation Army Family Treatment Facility also are participating.

Registration is required. For more information, call 282-0488.


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