LOCKED APART: Dawan and Dajuan by Gabriela Bulisova & Mark Isaac

“Locked Apart: Dawan and Dajuan” is one of a series of stories created by Gabriela Bulisova, Mark Isaac and Michelle Repiso that document the impact of incarceration on families. The full project, titled “Locked Apart: The Impact of Incarceration on Families,” includes video and still photographs of multiple families in Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC.

It is now well known that the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, with devastating consequences. However, the impact on children and families deserves significantly more attention. Approximately 10 million children in the U.S. have had a parent incarcerated at some point, and human rights advocates have called parental incarceration "the greatest threat to child well-being in the United States.”

During his imprisonment at State Correctional Institute – Graterford in Pennsylvania, where he was incarcerated for armed robbery, Dawan Williams participated together with his son Dajuan in the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program, which brings children to visit their parents 8 weeks in a row. This helped them maintain a relationship in the face of a lengthy separation. Since his return, Dawan has been an outspoken advocate for fathers to play a strong role in their children’s lives. He has a new job with Philadelphia’s renowned Mural Arts Program, which works extensively with current and former inmates; he is a public spokesperson for the FACT program; and he is constantly touting the importance of responsible parenting on Facebook. But above all, Dawan is an extremely enthusiastic parent, taking Dajuan and his other children to sports practice, movies, amusement parks, the zoo, and out to eat.

According to the Urban Institute, the experience of a parent going to prison will have a “significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child.” Children have difficulty visiting their parents and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Black children are 7 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent. Separation due to a parent’s incarceration is often accompanied by stigma, ambiguity, and a lack of compassion and support. In the case of the Williams family, Dajuan’s performance at school has improved considerably since his father returned, and he no longer gets into trouble.

Locked Apart makes clear that family members – and especially children -- of offenders are among those who are victimized when a crime occurs. Like the voices of crime victims and their families, the voices of offenders’ family members must be heard. This contributes to the hope that victims, offenders, and the community can repair the harm caused by crime and create a peaceful future in which all are contributing members of society.