Miss USA Asya Branch is touring the country and spreading the word about a program called Children of Inmates.
The program focuses on keeping children connected with their parents while they are serving time. It’s a life that Branch once knew with her own father.
Branch, a Mississippi native, chose Jacksonville as one of the many cities to bring awareness about the program.
“I think that it’s important that we highlight different issues within our criminal justice system that need to be fixed and just working towards reform and making the world a better place for individuals, for children, and highlighting, advocating, raising awareness for these causes,” Branch said.
It’s supported by Florida Secretary of Corrections Director Mark Inch, Miami Dade Commissioner Kionne McGhee and Children of Inmates President Doctor Shellie Solomon. All agree that children should not have to suffer while their parents are gone.
Branch’s father was in prison in Parchman, Mississippi for several years. She picked up her beloved father the day he was released.
“I have been working towards criminal justice reform for several years,” Branch said. “I grew up as the child of an incarcerated parent, so this is really near to my heart.”
As Branch and others work to bring awareness, the Jackson family is a local family that is getting the support they need while their father is serving time.
“With the program, it helps them to know that their dad is still apart of them,” said Shanall Jackson.
“It makes me feel good when I know that I can have somebody to talk to for help and other stuff,” said Jackson’s son, Keemarion.
One city at a time, Branch hopes more people learn about the program and be mindful of how the temporary loss of a parent can alter a child’s life.