By Jake Thomas, January 24, 2020, for Oregon Capital Bureau
Portland nonprofit and Oregon Department of Corrections say effort would improve visitation areas and support families. Portland inmate Irvin Hines says visits from his children can be stressful.
The father of three children ages 5, 14 and 21, Hines is in custody at Portland's Columbia River Correctional Institution. He described the thin mat he and his young son had to sit on in a corner of the facility's cafeteria. He also talked about the tables' hard edges that seemed at the right height to bonk the heads of high-energy children.
He said mothers weren't eager to take their children to see parents behind bars and were often agitated by prison-visit clothing restrictions. Hines said an uninviting environment made it more difficult for incarcerated parents to maintain a connection with their children.
There were times Hines almost wished his young son would not visit him. But, he said that playing a role in his child's life was important. "I want to spend some time teaching him some lessons maybe I didn't get taught," Hines said.
A new initiative unveiled in mid-January could help parents like Hines overcome barriers to staying connected with their children. In recent years, Oregon's Department of Corrections has sought to humanize and rehabilitate the more than 14,400 adults incarcerated in state prisons. An estimated 80% of incarcerated women and 65% of incarcerated men have children. Research shows that having an incarcerated parent has a negative effect on a child's wellbeing.
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