Report shows children with parents in prison are suffering

TULSA - Thousands of Oklahoma children have a parent in prison.

The Children of Incarcerated Parents Task Force released its final report on Wednesday that shows on any given day more than 26,000 Oklahoma children have a parent in an Oklahoma prison. That doesn't include thousands of other children with a parent locked-up in a county jail or a federal or out-of-state prison.

The task force was created in an effort to break the cycle and keep these children out of jail.

"I'm pretty honest with my kids, they know what I've done, they know I'm in prison," said Cunetta Osborne, an inmate at the Turley Residential Center.

Osborne is serving a ten year sentence for selling drugs.

"It's hard being away from your kids when you know you can't talk to them everyday or see them everyday, you can't know what's going on with them," said Osborne.

With the help of a program called Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, Osborne gets to see her nine-year-old twin girls and her 10-year-old son regularly.

"I'm used to being around my kids and they don't be wanting to leave and they always ask me when I'm coming home," said Osborne.

Sheila Harbert, the Chief Community Outreach Officer with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, spearheads the Beyond Bars program and served on the legislative task force that just wrapped up.

According to Harbert, the children end up becoming victims of their parent's incarceration.

"To see their fear and their hunger and their desire to see a parent, that choose drugs over them, you know that hurts a child," said Harbert.

According to Harbert, the number of children with one or more parents in custody continues to rise.

"They're in our schools, supermarkets, they're at the basketball games, they're at church and we're overlooking them," said Harbert.

Children with parents in prison are more likely to get locked up themselves.

"We don't want a generation of broken children, we don't, it's not conducive to our neighborhood or our community," said Harbert.

The task force released a series of recommendations, the primary one, to create more opportunities for inmates and their children to interact.

"I just want people to see that these are people and these are families, I just truly don't want them to be thrown away," said Harbert.

Oklahoma incarcerates the most female inmates per capita and ranks fourth for men.

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