LITTLE ROCK — About 26,000 Arkansas children have an incarcerated parent, according to Dee Ann Newell, executive director of Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind.
The group held its 19th annual Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis event Friday at the state Capitol to raise awareness about the issue of mothers and children separated by incarceration.
Eighty percent of incarcerated men and 61 percent of incarcerated women in Arkansas have minor children, Newell said.
"We’ve got to create more social support and services for them," she said. "The biggest risk factor for any child is poverty, but then you start looking at the assembly of all the other risk factors these kids have, and a new cascade of risk factors comes down when the parent’s incarcerated. We get kids that are fragile and vulnerable and carry the largest volume of risk of any set of children in our society."
Friday’s event included a talk by Cathy Allmon of Malvern, who participated in Arkansas Voices’ Parenting from Prison classes in the 1990s while she was serving time for second-degree murder and had three small children. She is now raising her two grandchildren and working on a degree in criminal investigation and justice, with plans to obtain a private investigator’s license.
"I thank each and every one of you for being here today to stand behind this woman," Allmon said of Newell. "She’s a woman that stands with the children."
The event also included music by the women’s choir of the Southeast Arkansas Community Correction Center in Pine Bluff and the presentation of $500 scholarships to two graduating high school seniors in Arkansas Voices’ youth program, Patrick Olive of Central High School in Little Rock and Teieauna Hobbs of Parkview Magnet High School in Little Rock.
Arkansas Voices was founded in 1994. It receives $125,000 a year from the state Department of Workforce Services, in addition to private donations.