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Prison Angel Tree

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Every crime has a ripple effect. Follow those ripples and you’ll usually find children who are punished for crimes they didn’t commit. Kim Riemland reports on a holiday program that reaches out to children with parents in prison.

 
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For a felony drug conviction, Stanley Petty will spend another Christmas in this medium security prison, which means his daughter and son will spend another Christmas without their dad. They are the often-overlooked victims of their father’s crime.

Stanley Petty / Inmate: “I’ve neglected them basically all of their life, and I’ve been in and out of penitentiaries.”

Church members all over the country are helping parents in prison connect with their kids at Christmas. It’s a ministry called “Angel Tree.”

Kelsey Wagner / 15 years old: “Myself, personally, I couldn’t imagine being away from my parents during Christmas time. I imagine it’s hard, especially for little kids.”

The youth group at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Shelby, N.C., collected the wish lists of children of area inmates. They do the shopping and wrapping, and will deliver gifts on behalf of the imprisoned parent.

Stanley Petty: “Without this Angel Tree, there is nothing I could give them in my present situation.”

Statistics show children with a parent in prison are six times more likely to someday be incarcerated themselves.

The Rev. Pat Tiffany / Aldersgate United Methodist Church: “If we don’t teach them the love of God now, when they are children, then we’ll be taking care of them while they’re troubled adults.”

Stanley’s kids are just two of an estimated 1.5 million children with a mom or dad behind bars.

It’s harsh punishment for a crime they didn’t commit, but this Christmas they’ll know they’re not forgotten.

I’m Kim Riemland reporting.

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Stanley Petty is due to get out of prison in 2008. “Angel Tree” is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.