Case Support

Incarcerated Parents Project

MISSION

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.

 

VISION

We envision a criminal justice system that values family and community connections and eliminates harms incurred by children, parents, families, and communities without relying upon imprisonment.

We envision 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. 

 

ABOUT IPP?

In Washington State, there are very few ways that sentencing judges can consider and mitigate the impact of potential parental incarceration upon the parent’s relationship with their children and the health of their family.   Arrangements made by incarcerated parents to have their children cared for by other loved ones in their absence are not always respected by family law courts and the child welfare system.   State laws currently allow the State and other family members to prevent reunification even after incarceration ends.   Incarcerated parents are wholly dependent upon caregivers of their children during incarceration to help them parent their children from prison.  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 to lose their children.  Despite changes to laws, policies, and some practices,  this risk of permanent loss for these children with incarcerated parents continues due to 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.  IPP believes that no parent should face the punishment of losing a child simply because he or she is incarcerated.

The harm of family separation and parental alienation that results is felt most acutely by the directly affected children, parents, and families.   However, because 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.

Therefore, 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 to parents, families, lawyers and others;
  • Trains court and community stakeholders, including attorneys for parents;
  • Creates legal resources, like legal briefing and expert services referrals, to attorneys for parents; and
  • Pursues policy reforms to reduce 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:

Email: dadre@defensenet.org

Telephone: (206) 623-4321