TALLAHASEE (March 11, 2015) – A group of elected officials, corrections department staffers, and children’s advocates were honored for helping to improve the lives of thousands of children impacted by parental incarceration.

Children of Inmates, Inc., along with Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones, inducted 10 members into the “Children of Inmates League of Superheroes” on March 11 in the Florida State Capitol Rotunda in Tallahassee.

More than 200,000 children in Florida have a parent in prison or jail. These children face three times the risk of anti-social behaviors and twice the risk of mental illness, putting them on the trajectory towards incarceration themselves.

To help these children, the Miami-based Children of Inmates has grown into one of the largest organizations of its kind in the nation with a mission to help children mitigate the trauma associated with the arrest and incarceration of their parents. The agency is working with Florida Department of Corrections, Florida Department of Children & Families, Children’s Trust of Miami, and other partners to identify these children, reach out to them and offer intensive care coordination, and then stand alongside them as they rebuild their relationships with their incarcerated parents through the innovative, evidence-based Prison Bonding Visits program.

Many of the leaders who support Children of Inmates were inducted on March 11 into the “League of Superheroes,” accompanied by a personalized comic book cover. They were:

  • Senator Audrey Gibson
  • Senator Arthenia Joyner
  • Representative Kionne McGhee
  • Representative Mia Jones
  • Senator Rob Bradley
  • Yolanda Cash Jackson, Becker and Poliakoff
  • Dr. Kerensa Lockwood, FLDOC
  • Ann Casey, FLDOC
  • Willie Bowens, FLDOC
  • Brian Reidl, FLDOC

“These ‘superheroes’ have exhibited a sincere interest and commitment to improving the lives of children impacted by parental incarceration,” said Shellie Solomon, project director for Children of Inmates. “They have not only voiced their support but have been proactive, helping children directly and indirectly with their actions. We are grateful for what they have done.”

This year, thanks to new funding approved by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, Children of Inmates has expanded from South Florida to Tampa, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and other cities in Florida.

What makes the organization unique is that during its Prison Bonding Visits program children get to sit around tables with their incarcerated parents and read books, put together puzzles, do arts-and-crafts projects, play board games, and share hot meals -- activities structured to encourage conversations, laughter, and hugs. Following the family visits at the prison, the children find stuffed animals awaiting them on the bus back to their home. But rather than going straight home, they head to either a bowling alley or skating rink as a way to ease anxieties from separating again from their incarcerated parents. Trained counselors accompany the children and are available throughout the visits for guidance and support.

Since its start in Miami in 2007 with funding from The Children’s Trust, Children of Inmates has coordinated more than 250 Prison Bonding Visits involving more than 2,500 children at more than 10 Florida Department of Correction’s institutions. During those years, over 85 percent of those children have reported reduced anti-social behaviors and over 90 percent reported stronger attachment to incarcerated parents and caregivers.