Drug War

No, I Didn't Criticize Sesame Street For Having a Muppet Whose Dad Is in Prison

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Sesame Street

Earlier this month the makers of Sesame Street released an educational kit for children who have a parent (or parents) behind bars. I wrote about the kit's contents, including tips for helping kids cope and for helping them stay connected to their imprisoned parent. I concluded my post by writing, "Congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail."

Writer Kathryn Dehoyos has a post up at Business Insider (syndicated from the Good Men Project, where it originally ran) titled, "'Sesame Street' Criticized Over Muppet Whose Dad Is In Prison." Apparently, that critic is me: 

Overall, the response has been a positive one…..However, there are critics as well. Mike Riggs, a blogger with Reason Magazine, wrote, "Congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail." While Mr. Riggs may be addressing the bigger issue of incarceration rates in America, the point he seems to be missing is that the children of those people who have gone to prison have no control over their circumstances. By ignoring the issue of parents who are incarcerated, we are essentially shaming the children who are truly the innocent victims in these cases.

Emphasis theirs. I didn't criticize Sesame Street at all, actually. I criticized America for having so many prisoners. Or, as Dehoyo actually acknowledges, "Mr. Riggs may be addressing the bigger issue of incarceration rates in America." 

Why Dehoyo then implies in the very next clause that I think the children of incarcerated parents have some control over their circumstances is absolutely beyond me. I didn't write that and I don't believe it. My cousin's children back home in Florida--all under 10--don't have any control over the fact that their father has been in and out of prison since they were babies. My aunt's kids out West have no control over the fact that their mother has been in and out of jail for the last 20 years. While I strongly believe it's a national shame how many kids could benefit from the Sesame Street kit, there's nothing wrong with the kit itself. (I'd even go a step further than Dehoyo and say that there are a lot of "innocent" parents behind bars, in that I believe most consensual crimes shouldn't be criminal.) 

I'd love to know why Dehoyo wrote what she wrote. In place of speculating about her motives, I'll simply note that if my Sesame Street post didn't accurately reflect my sympathy for people whose lives have been damaged by over-criminalization and the drug war, my archives here at Reason do