State funds to give "Skype-like" meetings for prisoners and families

Intended to build and maintain bonds between children and incarcerated parents

Mike Baggerman
April 25, 2019 - 12:27 pm

State Senator Tim Kennedy, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples Stokes announce $180,000 in funding for the Osborne Association's "Family Works" program. April 25, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - $180,000 in state grant money is going towards video conferencing capabilities for children whose parents are in prison.

State Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples Stokes made the announcement on Thursday morning that the Osborne Association's "Family Works Buffalo" program was the recipient of the funding, which they will implement at the Community Health Center of Buffalo.

Eight prisons will be involved in the program.

"Because of where the prisons are, it's virtually impossible for people to actually visit them as much as they should," Osborne President and CEO Elizabeth Gaynes said. "We began at Albion creating this video visiting. A couple of years ago when the governor added video visiting to the Buffalo, families were coming to our New York City offices. When we went to the prisons they said 'our parents don't live in New York City'. We discovered over half of the people in New York State prisons don't live in New York City."

Gaynes and elected officials said the video visits aren't meant to replace in-person visits, which they said are critical for building and maintaining the parent-child bond. They will supplement them and give families additional opportunities to interact with those behind bars.

"It has a life-long impact on young people to go through this experience," she added. "The truth is parents love their children and children love their parents. Parents who are incarcerated can provide children with what they need in terms of connection and attachment."

Gaynes said that the facilities will give the Community Health Center a schedule of video visiting opportunities for families. The video conferencing will be limited to the same standard as in-person visits.

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