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International Group Aims to Help Children of Incarcerated Parents

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News
Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation.

More than half of U.S. prison inmates are parents of children under 18 years old,according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics from 2007. A new international group is looking to help the children of those incarcerated parents in the U.S. and abroad.

No matter the crime, children of those sent to jail are affected in big ways — often sharing the attitudes and behaviors of their imprisoned parents.

Ugandan Francis Ssuubi is one of the founders of the International Network for Children of Prisoners. He and dozens of human rights activists from all over the world will be meeting in Dallas next month to plan the network's launch.

Ssuubi says children of prisoners in Uganda face extreme dangers.

"People sacrifice children," says Ssuubi — and he is not speaking metaphorically.

"The children of prisoners are most likely to be sacrificed in rituals, murdered. Which would not be the same in the United States, you see?"

In the U.S., children of prisoners have a very tough life, but they are not sacrificed. They may go live with relatives or go into the foster care system. Some get adopted. Still, their trials cannot be downplayed.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children of incarcerated parents are seven times more likely to someday be incarcerated themselves.

That's why Ssuubi wants international organizations to pay attention.

"We want to have NGO status at the United Nations in New York [and] in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, because the issues that [we] are talking about touch on human rights for these children, who are forgotten."

And with one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, many of those "forgotten" children live right here in Texas.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.