Report: 150,000 children in Louisiana have a parent in jail

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NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV)- Reign LaCour’s upcoming high school graduation will be bittersweet. She is excited for the celebration, but sad because she knows her father can not be there.

“He’s been incarcerated a very long time. Basically all their life,” Reign’s mother, Dawnesia Jones said.

Jones was always honest with her two daughters, Reign and Region, telling them at a young age that their father was in prison serving a life sentence. Their father Sean calls as much as he can, but his presence is definitely missed at home. It is hard on the girls and Jones.

“Just seeing them cry about things that he knows that he wants to be here for and he can’t,” Jones said.

Reign and Region are among the 150,000 children in Louisiana who have a parent in jail, prison or on probation. Those children, who have not committed a crime, suffer in many ways. They are also at a much greater risk for becoming involved in the criminal justice system themselves.

Sherlyn Hughes runs a program called Mentoring Children of Promise through the Volunteers of America of Southeast Louisiana.

“Statistics show that 70 percent of those children who had a parent incarcerated will one day find themselves incarcerated,” Hughes said.

Her program, created in 2004 for children between 4 and 18 years old, aims to combat that horrible statistic. It partners the children with mentors to try to lessen the impact of having a parent missing from the home.

“When that other person is there to say, ‘you can do better’ or ‘ you don’t have to go that route’ that helps the child,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the emotional impact of having a parent in prison can cause children to act out in school. Reign has been pulled out of class several times for her behavior. Jones thinks that is because she is upset with her dad’s situation.

“Her instinct is ‘when he gets in trouble, I can get in trouble,” Jones said.

At one point, Jones was working three jobs to support her daughters even though she is very sick.

“Years ago, I got real sick. Reign and Region were maybe 10 and 11. I had to have surgery,” Jones said. “It was supposed to be a two-day surgery. It winded up being seven and a half days. I had to be fed through a tube.”

Jones suffers from diabetes, lupus, and even has a sun allergy. Sometimes she is too sick to even get out of bed. But Reign and Region are always there to take care of her.

Things have been tough, but Jones says that for the past two years Mentoring Children of Promise has helped her girls tremendously.

“Volunteers of America have helped me because they make you know and feel that there is hope,” Jones said.

And there is hope that Reign and Region and the tens of thousands of other children with parents in prison can overcome their circumstances and live successful lives.

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