DOKUMENTART // Locked Apart

Mass incarceration is one of the most important human rights issues of our time. Slowly, we are paying more attention as a society to the high financial and social costs of imprisonment, often for nonviolent drug crimes, and the racial imbalance in sentencing. However, the impact on children and families deserves significantly more attention. International human rights advocates have called parental incarceration “the greatest threat to child well-being in the United States.”

More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent and approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives. According to the Urban Institute, the experience of a parent going to prison will have a “significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child.” Children have difficulty visiting their parents and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Most often, these children are minorities; black children are seven times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent.  Separation due to a parent’s incarceration can be as painful as other forms of parental loss and can be even more complicated because of the stigma, ambiguity, and lack of social support and compassion that accompanies it.

In Washington, DC and Philadelphia, I worked closely with my wife, Gabriela Bulisova, and our friend, Michelle Repiso, to document the stories of several families that have witnessed the impact of incarceration first-hand. The following are several short documentaries that we have created to date; more are being edited and will be available soon.

 

Locked Apart: The Koger-Harris Family

 

Locked Apart: Kiya

 

Locked Apart: The Walden-Dickson Family