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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.736

Introduced by Representatives Lorber of Burlington and Haas of Rochester

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Public safety; corrections; judiciary; children of incarcerated parents

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to require law enforcement officers to consider the needs of children when making an arrest of a parent; to require the commissioner of corrections to provide training to law enforcement officers and corrections employees on working with children of arrested and incarcerated parents; and to create a committee to study the need of children of incarcerated parents regarding contact with their parents.

AN ACT RELATING TO CHILDREN OF INCARCERATED PARENTS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  20  V.S.A. § 1818 is added to read:

§ 1818.  PROTOCOL WHEN ARRESTING A PARENT OF A MINOR

               CHILD

(a)  When a law enforcement officer makes an arrest in a home environment, he or she shall look for evidence of the presence of a minor child.

(b)  Whenever making an arrest of a person old enough to be a parent, a law enforcement officer shall, if possible and appropriate, ask the following questions:

(1)  Are there children or other dependents living in the household in which the arrest is taking place?

(2)  Are there children or others who are dependent on you for care?

(3)  If you are responsible for care of a child or other dependent, do you have a plan for his or her care in your absence?  What are the arrangements?

(c)  Whenever making an arrest of a parent, a law enforcement officer shall, if possible and appropriate, allow the parent to assure the child that he or she will be provided care.  If this is unsafe or the demeanor of the parent suggests this would distress the child further, the officer shall explain the reason for the arrest in age-appropriate language and offer reassurances to the child that both the parent and the child will be well taken care of.

Sec. 2.  28 V.S.A. § 102(c)(22) and (23) are added to read:

(22)  To work with the commissioner of public safety to provide annual training to all law enforcement officers and appropriate department of corrections employees.  The training shall be designed to ensure that the officers and employees understand appropriate behavior when working with children of arrested and incarcerated parents.  At a minimum, the training shall include information about:

(A)  implementation of the provisions of 20 V.S.A. § 1818;

(B)  how to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of children whose parent or primary caregiver is arrested, including consultation with appropriate agency of human services divisions;

(C)  the impact of parental incarceration on a child’s development;

(D)  ways of talking with children about the parent’s situation; and

(E)  ways of minimizing the trauma of being present at the time of arrest.  

(23)  To work with the secretary of human services to establish a committee in each agency of human services region to develop a community response to children identified in need of supports as a result of a parent’s incarceration.  Each committee shall consist of the agency of human services field services director, the department district director, the superintendent of any correctional facility in the region, the department for children and families regional family services director, at least one community-based service provider, and at least one formerly incarcerated individual or an adult whose parent was incarcerated when that person was a child.  The secretary and commissioner may appoint other members as appropriate.    

Sec. 3.  COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN OF INCARCERATED PARENTS

(a)  There is created a committee on incarcerated parents to develop recommendations regarding ways to improve contact between an incarcerated parent of a minor child and the child.  The committee may meet up to eight times or more often subject to the approval of the speaker of the house and the president pro tempore the senate.  The legislative council and joint fiscal office shall provide staff services to the committee.

(b)  The committee shall consist of two members of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house, two senators appointed by the president pro tempore, four members from Community Partners Involved with Incarcerated Families chosen by the organization, a representative of the child development division of the agency of human services appointed by the secretary of human services, four members appointed by the governor as follows: one formerly incarcerated male parent of a young child, one formerly incarcerated female parent of a young child, one child rights advocate, and one prisoners’ rights advocate.  Members shall receive per diem and expenses pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 1010.

(c)  The committee shall:

(1)  Gather data on the prevalence of inmates who are parents of young children.

(2)  Review policies and practices in other states regarding contact and visitation among children and parents who are incarcerated.

(3)  Consider the best way to meet the needs of children of incarcerated parents, including consideration of contracting with local community partners to provide services within the correctional facilities.

(4)  Consult with interested persons and experts to determine best practices that will yield measurable results.

(5)  Develop cost estimates of resources needed to make recommended changes.

(6)  Identify mail, telephone, and visiting policies that promote family contact and eliminate barriers to positive interactions among incarcerated parents and other family members.

(7)  Review national research regarding techniques for fostering

child- and family-centered visiting spaces in correctional facilities.

(8)  Review and make recommendations regarding contact between children and their incarcerated parents or primary caregivers, including:

(A)  disparities, if any, among correctional facilities in providing parent support services;

(B)  cost of telephone calls;

(C)  staffing issues that may impede increasing visitation hours;

(D)  difficulties of attending during visitation hours due to timing or travel distances;

(E)  the environment in which visits occur; and

(F)  the rules governing contact or no-contact visits.

(d)  The committee shall report its findings and recommendations on or before December 15, 2008.  Recommendations shall include proposed legislative action, a time line for achieving results, a budget describing the cost of initiating and operating any proposed services, and potential nonstate funding sources, if any.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us