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GO KIDS Articles

Criminal Justice Agency Launches Initiative Specifically for Children
GO KIDS designed for children of incarcerated offenders

(Austin) – Criminal activities often have a lasting impact on society. They also have an impact on children whose parents are punished through incarceration. Having recognized the vital role all family members can play in the life of a child, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has launched an initiative called GO KIDS, which stands for Giving Offenders’ Kids Incentive and Direction to Succeed.

“I am personally committed to GO KIDS and am thrilled the Agency is taking a progressive approach to criminal justice issues,” said Christina Melton Crain, Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and a Dallas attorney in private practice who represents minors. “I believe the program will make a significant difference in the life of children, which ultimately impacts the future of Texas.”

“GO KIDS is designed to identify and coordinate resources to help the kids of those persons under criminal supervision in Texas,” added Brad Livingston, TDCJ Executive Director. “We want to do what we can to help children succeed.”

Studies have shown that, without intervention, children of incarcerated parents are six to eight times more likely to become involved in a criminal lifestyle. The National Institute of Corrections recently found that parental confinement leads to stress, trauma, stigmatization and separation problems for these children, causing them to exhibit a broad variety of behavioral, emotional, health and educational problems. A different research project, which studied incarcerated juveniles, found that half of them came from a family where one of the parents had a confinement history.

"We must break the cycle of incarceration that plagues the children of prisoners so that these children can live a life of hope and opportunity,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “GO KIDS is an invaluable mentoring program that can keep young Texans from repeating the mistakes of their parents, and can set them on the right course to live productive and meaningful lives."

The GO KIDS program is one piece of an overall strategy that TDCJ is developing in an effort to help offenders reintegrate into society upon their release. “The ultimate goal is to provide a resource of promising, evidenced-based approaches, that would support children of offenders build upon their strengths and create a positive impact on their lives,” said Madeline Ortiz, Director of TDCJ’s Rehabilitation and Reentry Programs Division. “Family ties are also a very big part of the reentry process, and GO KIDS fits nicely into that equation. If we’re able to help keep an offender’s family unit intact, that only increases our chances for achieving our mission.”

Chairman Crain and TDCJ launched the GO KIDS initiative by unveiling a web site that has links to valuable community resources. Among them is a program called Amachi, which began in Philadelphia and was introduced in the Lone Star State by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Texas. The group builds partnerships with Dallas area faith-based congregations to find men and women who are specifically interested in working with children of incarcerated parents.

After undergoing the non-profit’s screening and enrollment process, these volunteers are ready to be paired up with a child they will visit at least twice a month for the next year.

“It’s been so exciting to watch this program grow each month,” said T. Charles Pierson, chief executive officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas. “I’ve been a mentor to a child of an incarcerated parent for more than a year now, and I have seen so much improvement in his self-esteem and confidence. It’s been a very fulfilling experience for both of us.”

GO KIDS can be found at http://www.tdcj.texas.gov (click on the GO KIDS link at the right-hand side of the page).

For more information, contact Mike Viesca, TDCJ Public Information Director, at (512) 463-8280.