Case Support

Incarcerated Parents Project


The Incarcerated Parents Project (IPP) works with parents, families, allies, lawyers, and community advocates to reduce family separation caused by parental incarceration in Washington State because we believe that keeping families together makes children more supported and our communities safer.



We envision a criminal court system that values family and community connections and eliminates harms incurred by children, parents, families, and communities without relying upon imprisonment and a child welfare system that values family and community connections and eliminates harms incurred by children, parents, families, and communities without relying upon the destruction of parent-child relationships. 



In Washington State, there are very few ways that sentencing judges can consider the impact of potential parental incarceration upon the parent’s relationship with their children and the health of their family as a basis to mitigate the sentence to be imposed.   Family law courts and the child welfare system have not always respected arrangements made by incarcerated parents to have their children cared for by loved ones in their absence.    Incarcerated parents are wholly dependent upon caregivers of their children during incarceration to help them parent their children from prison.  State laws currently allow the State and other family members to prevent reunification even after incarceration ends.  They are also at risk of losing their connections to their children forever while incarcerated if those caregivers are not able or are not willing to support the child-parent connection.

This risk of permanent loss intensifies if the child enters the child welfare system, where incarcerated parents are almost twice as likely as other parents in that system to lose their children forever.  Despite changes to laws, policies, and some practices, this risk of permanent loss of their children continues for incarcerated parents. Significant barriers in accessing meaningful visits with their children, effective legal representation in all child custody proceedings, and, if needed, social services designed to improve the parent’s ability to care for and provide for their child(ren) upon release remain.   WDA-IPP believes that no parent should face the punishment of losing a child simply because he or she is incarcerated.

Children, parents, and families experiencing parental incarceration feel the harm of family separation and parental alienation that results from incarceration most acutely.     Supporting connections between children and their incarcerated parents improves child well-being, increases family stability, and improves public safety, communities benefit from supporting these children, parents, and  families as well.

In order to address the unique needs of families experiencing parental incarceration, the Incarcerated Parents Project (IPP) provides:

  • technical case assistance about parenting while incarcerated and reunifying successfully to parents, families, lawyers and others;
  • training to court and community stakeholders, including attorneys for parents;
  • legal resources, like legal briefing and expert services referrals, to attorneys for parents; and
  • advocacy support for policy reforms that reduce or eliminate family separation caused by parental incarceration in Washington State.

The Incarcerated Parents Project is a collaboration between the Washington Defender Association (WDA) and Seattle University School of Law (SU) with the support of the University of Washington Law School (UW) and the Washington State Office of Public Defense (State OPD).

D’Adre Cunningham
Incarcerated Parents Project Resource Attorney

If you need IPP case assistance, please contact D’Adre, here:


Telephone: (206) 623-4321