Breaking the cycle: Children who have parents in jail

Parents in jail a risk factor for children

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Children who have a parent who has been or is in jail are at greater risk to follow the same path. In just two local zip codes, 32208 and 32209, there are roughly 28,000 children who fit that profile.

"Children of incarcerated parents are seven times more likely to end up incarcerated themselves," said Ronnie Cage, who is fatherhood program coordinator at Operation New Hope.

Operation New Hope has many programs that target helping those released from jail and rebuilding families fragmented by crime.

"Breaking the Cycle" is one program that focuses on helping families with children who have a parent that has been in jail.

"The concern is if one parent has been in jail the children will follow the cycle," said Angelina Respess, who along with her three young sons are enrolled in the two-year program. The children's father recently was released from jail.

"To me breaking the cycle is preventing the past...from repeating itself," said Respess, who praises the program that provides mentoring for her sons and classes to help parents strengthen their families.

"The hardest part is working with adults," said Melani Albritton, who works with children in the program. Right now there are 80 families and more than 200 children taking part in Breaking the Cycle.

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office along with some local pastors unveiled a program called Operation PIE to reach teens at risk. PIE stands for prevention, intervention and enforcement. In this program, families of 100 at risk teens will be called on by an officer and a pastor to offer troubled youth a path away from crime.


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