How The Fortune Society Reconnects Families Impacted by Incarceration

How The Fortune Society Reconnects Families Impacted by Incarceration


Maintaining family bonds is tough for parents who are incarcerated and their children. Visitation hours are limited and children often must travel long distances. Others are unable to visit at all. The emotional effect of parental incarceration has far-reaching implications for these children’s lives—and for society at large:

  • 2.3% of children in the U.S have parents in State or Federal prison, and more than one-third of these children will reach the age of 18 while their parent is incarcerated (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
  • When children have an incarcerated parent, they are six times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system themselves (U.S. Department of Justice).
  • Children with fathers in prison have greater chances of growing up in poverty and experiencing financial instability (Geller et al. 2009; Phillips et al. 2006).

In addition to working to prevent mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system in general, The Fortune Society makes a dedicated effort to promote family unity. Our Family Services program helps parents with justice involvement access the resources and knowledge they need to become caring parents and role models for their children. By teaching methods that heal and strengthen relationships, our staff helps rebuild severed bonds and encourage positive reunification.

Through group sessions and the guidance of trained counselors, parents learn communication skills and gain insights about themselves in the process.

Michael Carryl, participant in The Fortune Society's Family Services program and individual impacted by incarceration

Participant Michael Carryl states:

“When I first started the program, I was like, ‘This is something that maybe can help me get back on my feet and I’ll still be able to see my kids.’ It was tough for me–it broke me, and it made me, because being here I learned so much…”


Virginia Lasoski-Nepa, Senior Director of Family Services and Admissions at The Fortune Society

Hard work pays off. Virginia Lasoski-Nepa, our Senior Director of Family Services and Admissions, says it best:

“[In Family Services,] we do outings at least four times a year, [like celebrating Father’s Day or hosting a large holiday party.] When you sit down and see… a father introduce his child and his child’s mother, and you know from past conversations that things haven’t been too great between mother and father, [but] all of a sudden they’re with their child, taking pictures, and conversing. Those are the highlights that make everything that we do within the organization worthwhile.”


The above episode of our monthly talk show, Both Sides of the Bars, provides a broader context on how incarceration impacts children and parents. Host and Fortune Associate Vice President Ronald Day is joined by two formerly incarcerated women—Brittany Smith, an educator at Fortune, and Sharon Richardson, re-entry specialist at STEPS to End Family Violence—for a discussion on how incarceration strains family relationships. Learn even more in the June 2016 issue of the Fortune News, which focuses on families impacted by the criminal justice system, or read recent articles about the experiences of individuals impacted by our Family Service program.

Through the work of our dedicated staff, we will continue to advocate against mass incarceration and support people in the process of rebuilding their lives and growing as nurturing parents. Help us in these efforts: donate today or attend an upcoming event.

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*Article by Carmen Rojas, Marketing and Donor Communications Associate at The Fortune Society

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