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Sunny Days…in Jail?!

By: Kelly Tansor (ktanso2@uic.edu), Copy Editor

The Muppets on Sesame Street is a childhood favorite of many children and adults alike.  When most of us think about Sesame Street, we think of happy faces, memorable characters, and learning about the world around us – some people even learn English from watching Sesame Street.  The  show has also dealt with a number of tough topics, such as divorce and having a parent in the military.

However, the children’s show is now taking a risky step in tackling a much-less talked-about subject: having a parent in jail.

In one episode, viewers are introduced to Alex, a Muppet whose father is incarcerated.  He is visibly upset because he really misses his dad and cannot engage in usual father-son activities.  Although not much is said about why his father is in jail, the episode further explains incarceration and how one can cope with having a parent in jail.

The episode has gotten a wide range of responses.  Many people are quick to say that the episode gives the impression that it is normal or acceptable to have a parent in jail.  Many others, however, applaud Sesame Street for showing such a controversial topic that not everyone feels comfortable talking about.  According to Pew Charitable Trusts, one in 28 children in the U.S. has a parent in jail, a much larger number than children who have a parent that is deployed.  So while incarceration is not something people want to talk about, it is something we should talk about.

Personally, I admire Sesame Street in showing this episode.  Believe it or not, young children are exposed to more difficult things than children’s shows let on – divorce, abuse, a death in the family, etc.  I think Sesame Street is taking a huge step forward in allowing families to discuss these things more openly.  This also allows children of incarcerated parents to know that they are not alone, and their peers can be more educated about the issue.  Children who have an incarcerated parent may feel more isolated because not all kids are comfortable talking to the kid whose mom or dad is in jail. Also, this episode may remind young viewers that a child’s parent being in jail does not make that child a bad person or someone who should be secluded.  I am hoping this episode has a lasting impression on everyone who watches it.

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