Books for Adults

All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated – Nell Bernstein

In this "moving condemnation of the U.S. penal system and its effect on families" (Parents’ Press), award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein takes an intimate look at parents and children—over two million of them—torn apart by our current incarceration policy. Described as "meticulously reported and sensitively written" by Salon, the book is "brimming with compelling case studies … and recommendations for change" (Orlando Sentinel); Our Weekly Los Angeles calls it "a must-read for lawmakers as well as for lawbreakers."

B.O.S.S. Stories: 11 Real Life Stories about the Impact of Incarceration on Students and Educators Dr. Jaclyn Walker and Velvet SmithKeyanna CofieldGary Gooding, Honour Lee, Jahlil Ward, Taemon Wright, Makiyah Robinson, Nyonna Robertson, Treyshun Parker, Alonzo Outten

Frederick Douglas stated, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This quote sums up the purpose of the B.O.S.S. (Breaking Obstacles to Seek Success) Authors and Book Club. Dr. Jaclyn Walker & Velvet Godwin-Smith facilitated the B.O.S.S. (Breaking Obstacles to Seek Success) Authors and Book Club, so the world could hear 11 powerful stories that will change the world. These stories are from the perspective of 9 children and 2 adults that have been impacted by incarceration. However, these B.O.S.S. (Breaking Obstacles to Seek Success) stories will encourage others in similar situations that regardless of your circumstances, then you can still be a BOSS!

Closeness is not Measured by Distance: A Dynamic Journal for Children of Incarcerated Parents – Bernard Johnson and Bruce Bryan

This tool was designed to develop and enrich the relationship of children and their incarcerated parent by confronting the struggles of having a parent in jail or prison. Order by phone or e-mail: (615) 500-3443.

Coping When a Parent Is in Jail  - John J. LA Valle

"Describes the effect of imprisonment on the prisoner and the family, and discusses life in jail, the criminal justice system, parole, women prisoners, and the value of counseling for family members"

Do I Have A Daddy? A Story About a Single-Parent Child with a Special Section for Single Mothers and Fathers - Jeanne Warren Lindsay

"Addressing single-parent families, this book helps kids with absent, deceased, and unknown dads talk about and deal with this often difficult situation. When Erik, a preschooler, is teased by other children about not having a dad, his mother explains that there are many kinds of fathers, and not all of them live with their children. The story serves as a conversation starter and can be adapted to meet a child’s specific needs. Parents learn the importance of being honest while allowing their children to retain a positive view of the absent parent." Note: not specifically about parental incarceration. Special section at the end for single parents could be a helpful tool.

Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison – Deborah Jiang Stein

“Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus is the story of a woman whose gift for finding purpose in life drives her to help others change their lives even as she struggles to accept and overcome her own past, born heroin addicted to a mother in prison. Her story proves we’re more than the sum of our parts, and there’s always a chance for redemption.”

Finding Fish – Antwone Quenton Fisher

“Baby Boy Fisher was raised in institutions from the moment of his birth in prison to a single mother. He ultimately came to live with a foster family, where he endured near-constant verbal and physical abuse. In his mid-teens he escaped and enlisted in the navy, where he became a man of the world, raised by the family he created for himself. Finding Fish shows how, out of this unlikely mix of deprivation and hope, an artist was born — first as the child who painted the feelings his words dared not speak, then as a poet and storyteller who would eventually become one of Hollywood's most sought-after screenwriters. A tumultuous and ultimately gratifying tale of self-discovery written in Fisher's gritty yet melodic literary voice, Finding Fish is an unforgettable reading experience.”

Help for Kids! Understanding Your Feelings About Having a Parent in Prison – Carole Gesme

An activity workbook that explores the many mixed-up feelings that accompany the absence of a parent due to incarceration. It teaches peer pressure responses, provides tools for problem-solving, and helps students accept their feelings.

Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett - Jennifer Gonnerman

Life on the Outside tells the story of Elaine Bartlett, who spent sixteen years in Bedford Hills prison for selling cocaine--a first offense--under New York’s Rockefeller drug laws. The book opens on the morning of January 26, 2000, when Bartlett is set free and returns to New York City. At 42, she has virtually nothing: no money, no job, no real home. All she does have is a large and troubled family, including four children, who live in a decrepit housing project on the Lower East Side. “I left one prison to come home to another,” Elaine says. Over the next months, she clashes with her daughters, hunts for a job, visits her son and husband in prison, negotiates the rules of parole, and campaigns for the repeal of the laws that led to her long prison term. Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records, says: “At a time when the prison-industrial complex is destroying African American families and neighborhoods, Elaine Bartlett is more than a survivor: she is a heroine. The future of our communities depends on women like her.”

Parental Incarceration: Personal Accounts and Developmental Impact - Denise Johnston and Megan Sullivan

Parental Incarceration makes available personal stories by adults who have had the childhood experience of parental incarceration. These stories help readers better understand the complex circumstances that influence these children’s health and development, as well as their high risk for intergenerational crime and incarceration. Denise Johnston examines her own children’s experience of her incarceration within the context of what the research and her 30 years of practice with prisoners and their children has taught her, arguing that it is imperative to attempt to understand parental incarceration within a developmental framework. Megan Sullivan, a scholar in the Humanities, examines the effects of her father’s incarceration on her family, and underscores the importance of the reentry process for families.

The number of arrested, jailed, and imprisoned persons in the United States has increased since 1960, most dramatically between 1985 and 2000. As the majority of these incarcerated persons are parents, the number of minor children with an incarcerated parent has increased alongside, peaking at an estimated 2.9 million in 2006. The impact of the experience of parental incarceration has garnered attention by researchers, but to date attention has been focused on the period when parents are actually in jail or prison. This work goes beyond that to examine the developmental impact of children’s experiences that extend long beyond that timeframe. A valuable resource for students in corrections, human services, social work, counseling, and related courses, as well as practitioners, program/agency administrators, policymakers, advocates, and others involved with families of the incarcerated, this book is testimony that the consequences of mass incarceration reach far beyond just the offender."

Parenting From A Distance: Your Rights and Responsibilities - Jan Walker

A parenting text for incarcerated parents who are committed to remaining involved with their children and willing to accept the responsibilities associated with parenting from a distance.

Parenting From Prison: A Hands-on Guide for Incarcerated Parents - James Birney

Parenting From Prison is a hands-on, practical guide that walks an incarcerated parent through the preparation and process of becoming a vital, positive, encouraging parent to their child. The book discusses A Child’s Development Needs, Preparing to Parent From Prison, What a Child Asks, Visiting with Your Child and contains a sample parenting plan and activities that will help you to maintain a closer connection to their child.

As an incarcerated parent, you can have a strong relationship with your child, despite the challenges you both may face. Parenting From Prison shows you how to provide your child with the love, emotional support, and encouragement that are of critical importance to them. It will also bring you a renewed sense of hope and strength.

A Parent’s Message: An Interactive Program Supporting Parent-Child Bond - The Messages Project

This interactive text will act as a guide through the reunification process, and it includes worksheets that both kids and parents can complete to establish and maintain a healthy bond.

Seen & Heard: 100 Poems by Parents & Children Affected by Imprisonment - Lucy Baldwin and Ben Raikes

"The poems and images are all original and from open competitions begun in 2018. They address the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of the authors as they express themselves concerning their emotions and experiences. Over a million children and family members are affected by imprisonment in the UK alone and the poems seek to emphasize the sense of loss, deprivation and isolation involved. They also show resilience—and how enforced separation impacts each and every day of the writer’s life. Published and made possible with the kind support of Lady Edwina Grosvenor."

Somebody’s Daughter – Ashley C. Ford

“For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he's the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him too. He's sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She's certain that one day they'll be reunited again, and she'll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he's in prison, and she doesn't know what he did to end up there.

Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn't know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that’s where the story really begins.

Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.”

Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story - asha bandele

Award-winning journalist, and author of The Prisoner’s Wife and Daughter, and performance poet featured on HBO’S Def Poetry Jam, asha bandele once again writes from the heart in her lyrical and intimate memoir Something Like Beautiful—a moving story of love, loss, motherhood, and survival. Sharing the story of her struggles as a single black mother in New York City and her tragically self-destructive near-breakdown, asha bears her soul in a book Rebecca Walker, author of Baby Love, calls “courageous, profound, and achingly beautiful.”

What Will Happen To Me? - H. Zehr and L. Stutzman Amstutz

What is life like for a child who has a parent in prison? This book, by two nationally recognized experts in the practice of restorative justice, brings together 30 portraits of children whose parents are incarcerated, along with their thoughts and reflections, in their own words. What is life like for a child who has a parent in prison? This book brings together photographic portraits of 30 children whose parents are incarcerated, along with their thoughts and reflections, in their own words. As Taylor says, “I want other kids to know that, even though your parents are locked up, they’re not bad people. “And I want them to know that we’ll get through it. As long as we have someone there to help us, we can get through it. It makes you stronger.” The material in “What Will Happen to Me?” has been gathered and written by two nationally-recognized experts. Howard Zehr is known around the world as the “grandfather of restorative justice.” He lectures and consults internationally on that topic and related issues. He is currently a member of the Victims Advisory Group of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz travels the U.S. doing mediation work in severe crime cases. She provides consulting and training for agencies and communities seeking to implement programs of restorative justice. This book of portraits and text includes: Reflections of several grandparents who are unexpectedly parenting children whose parents are incarcerated. “Ten Questions Often Asked by Children.” “Dealing with Emotions”—including grief and loss, shame and stigma, anger and isolation. Resources for “Staying in Touch,” “Finding Moments of Celebration,” “Adjusting to a Parent’s Return,” “Self-Care for Family Caregivers,” and “Suggestions for Third-Party Caregivers.” “The Children’s Bill of Rights,” along with thoughtful consideration about how to apply restorative justice and respect for relationships in these difficult situations.

When a Parent Goes to Jail: A Comprehensive Guide for Counseling Children of Incarcerated Parents - Rebecca M. Yaffee and Lonnie F. Hoade

A comprehensive guide for counseling children of incarcerated parents. To many, the situation seems hopeless, but according to professional counselors Lonnie F. Hoade and Rebecca M. Yaffe, there is a way to turn the tide of such depressing statistics. Their new book, When a Parent Goes to Jail, is a professional resource to help children of incarcerated parents cope with the traumas they face -- physical, emotional, and social stigmas and feelings of guilt, anger, fear and shame -- and guide them in making wiser life choices than their parents did. When a Parent Goes to Jail is a comprehensive book that takes a preventive approach when dealing with the symptoms of children under stress and is ideal for use individually or in small groups. (Ages 10-14)

We’re always looking for books about children with incarcerated parents. If you come across any, let us know!

We do not condone or promote the books on this page. The list was compiled as we became aware of them.