Proposal Would Give Kids More Time with Imprisoned Parents

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COLUMBIA - A Missouri House bill would allow incarcerated parents to see their kids more often.

House members approved the idea, known as the "Access to Incarcerated Parents" bill Tuesday.

Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis, sponsored the bill, which would establish a two-year pilot program on January 1, 2015.

Children from birth to age 17 would be allowed to see their incarcerated parents on a more frequent basis as long as the parents have not pleaded guilty or been convicted of a crime against children.

Operation K.I.T.E. (Keeping In Touch Eternally) founder Marcus Buford knows what it's like to have kids while in prison.

"I was convicted in 1991 for a drug charge and I served three years of a five-year sentence," he said. "I was released from parole in '96."

He had a newborn on the outside during that time.

His organization helps kids see their imprisoned parents. 

"We're a non-profit organization that provides free transportation for children of incarcerated parents," Buford said.

He said it's important for kids to have access to their parents.

"Keeping them connected will help with re-entry when that time comes," Buford said. "The children are the main sufferers of the situation in that they're left behind." 

A 2010 U.S. Department of Justice special report from the Bureau of Justice statistics said, "An estimated 809,800 prisoners of the 1,518,535 held in the nation's prisons at midyear 2007 were parents of minor children, or children under age 18."

If the bill passes, a joint report by Governor Nixon and the Legislature would be submitted for review at the pilot program's conclusion in February 2017.