Pennsylvania’s state prisons will allow incarcerated parents and their children to do arts and crafts in visiting rooms to make children more comfortable with the experience, Department of Corrections officials said Monday.
Coloring books, markers, paper and other craft supplies will be available during visiting hours, all of which will be kept secure and used only in the children’s play area, said Department of Corrections Sec. John Wetzel.
Incarcerated parents, Wetzel said, will be able to take their crafts back to their cell immediately after the visit.
The suggestion came during a recent listening session between the Department of Corrections and family and friends of inmates.
The discussion was hosted by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and its executive director, Chad Dion Lassiter, who made the suggestion.
Lassiter said the move will help lessen the trauma children experience in visiting an incarcerated parent.
“Creating a positive atmosphere during visits allows the natural bonding between parent and child to occur,” he said. “It allows relationships to flourish, which serves the overall goal of rehabilitation and a more positive outcome for our children and the inmate.”
Wetzel said some state facilities already had arts and crafts supplies available, but Lassiter’s suggestion prompted Wetzel to make sure all facilities have such supplies.
“We understand the important relationships between parent and child, and we want to foster the continuation of those relationships through contact in our visiting room,” Wetzel said. “We are going a step further by allowing incarcerated parents the opportunity to share in creativity with their children through arts and crafts.”
Wetzel said he understands that recent DOC policy changes have made some inmates and families “feel cut off from each other.” Those recent policy changes include mail no longer going directly to inmates but rather being processed at a Florida facility where photocopies are then sent to inmates. The change, officials have said, is in an effort to prevent drugs that have been liquefied and dried on paper from making into the prisons.