Nine Hundred New Prison Inmates Each Week Means 900 More Children with a Parent in Prison

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Number of children of incarcerated parents parallels number of adults locked up. Prisoners’ children are victims, too, raising a need for society to re-examine its view of incarceration.

As prison and jail populations climb to well over two million, so do the number of children who have a parent in prison.

Jan Walker, prison parent/family educator and author of recently published book “An Inmate’s Daughter” (ISBN 0971416192, Raven Publishing, March 2006) brings a fresh and compassionate voice for the families of inmates along with the positive message that growth and healing may be found. She invites society to re-examine it’s view of incarceration’s effect on the families that are often forgotten, overlooked and shunned.

“Children need to know their parents’ choices are not their fault, their parents still love them (this is questioned in cases of child abuse; therefore, individual situations must be considered), and they can make healthier choices themselves. The children need permission to love the adults who are caring for them, to talk about their worries and concerns, to go on with their lives while their parents are away, and to find strength to ignore meanness in others,” Walker councils.

“An Inmate’s Daughter,” is a fictional account of the struggle such children face. Thirteen-year-old protagonist Jenna MacDonald, who tells her true feelings only in journal entries, writes, “My dad's in prison for killing another man. He's an inmate, but he's still a dad.”

Jenna Macdonald, the new girl, in her Tacoma Washington middle school, wants to join the schools racially mixed in-group, but something is getting in the way: The family secret; Jenna’s dad is an inmate at the McNeil Island prison. The secret begins to unravel during a family visit to the island when Jenna jumps into Puget Sound to rescue a child who’s fallen from the float. Ensuing media coverage of Jenna’s heroic act infuriates Jenna’s mother who is certain the family secret will be revealed in the local newspaper.

As the story unfolds, Jenna discovers that while her dad is in prison she is “doing time” too. She struggles with the problems many middle school children face when trying to gain acceptance from their peers. Her problems are aggravated by the fact that she can’t tell any of her classmates the truth about her dad’s incarceration. Her mother, like many single parents, is caught up in her own problems and often leaves Jenna to care for her younger brother.

Jan Walker lives in Gig Harbor, WA, where she is dedicated to fostering literacy and writing craft for youth and adults. “An Inmate’s Daughter” may be purchased through, or any online or local bookstore.

Editor’s Note / To request an interview, book excerpt or review copies, please contact Angela Kelly at 406/580.3747


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