Mission & Work
POPS MISSION is to give community and voice to high school students who have loved ones who are or have been incarcerated. Our clubs nourish, empower, heal and inspire through creative expression, emotional support and development of community. We provide our students the tools and confidence to educate the broader community.
No one shall have to struggle alone or bear the shame, stigma and sorrow too often connected to those who endure the pain of the prison system.
The growing number of children with an incarcerated parent represents one of the most significant collateral consequences of the record prison population in the U.S., according to research conducted by Nell Bernstein in her ground-breaking 2005 book, All Alone in the World. More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent and approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives (The Sentencing Project). One in nine African American children (11.4%), one in 28 Hispanic children (3.5%) and one in 57 white children (1.8%) in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent (Pew Charitable Trusts: Pew Center on the States).
Parental incarceration is now recognized as an adverse childhood experience (ACE), distinguished by the unique combination of trauma, shame and stigma. Parental incarceration increases the risk of children living in poverty or experiencing household instability independent of other risk factors.
A misperception exists that children of incarcerated parents are more likely than their peers to be incarcerated and predisposed to criminal activity. There is no basis for this in the existing research.
A Shared Sentence, The Annie E. Casey Foundation found connections between parental incarceration and childhood health and behavior problems. Parental incarceration has also been linked to poor mental and physical health in adulthood. A recent study by Child Trends makes evident the importance of POPS to young people whose lives have been impacted by parental incarceration. For more information please visit The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated.
Who We Are
Our high school-based clubs meet weekly to nourish, empower, heal and inspire through creative expression and emotional support. We provide students with the tools and confidence to educate the broader community. Our core work takes place during weekly POPS the Club meetings where participants break bread and break their silence. Following their communal meals, students benefit from the wisdom of guest speakers, from opportunities for writing and making art, from conversation and from mindfulness exercises.
We currently have eight clubs in Los Angeles area high schools: Belmont, Culver City, El Camino Real Charter, James Monroe, Los Angeles High School of the Arts (LAHSA), Lawndale, Santa Monica and Venice. We also have pilot clubs in Harrisburg, PA at Steelton Highspire H.S. and in Baltimore, MD at Renaissance Academy. Launching soon are Sci-Tech H.S. in Harrisburg; Carver H.S. and Benjamin Mays H.S. in Atlanta, GA; Benjamin Franklin H.S. in Baltimore; Bronx Academy of Letters and Leadership H.S. in New York City.