Landon Osborn '04 helps incarcerated parents and their children strengthen bonds through the power of shared reading.
Landon is program manager for CLICC (Connecting through Literacy: Incarcerated parents, their Children and Caregivers), a nonprofit that is rapidly expanding within Connecticut’s prisons.
Here’s how it works: Children with a parent in prison choose books from a Scholastic catalog, and then CLICC orders three copies of each—one for the incarcerated parent, one for the child and one for the child’s mentor. The child meets with a CLICC mentor once a week for a year to read the books and write letters to Mom or Dad. Incarcerated parents meet with separate CLICC mentors while in prison and for an additional six months post-release.
As Landon explains, books serve as a point of connection for letters and phone calls while the parent is in prison, and ice breakers for conversations after the parent is released, when relating can be difficult.
“Strengthened bonds with immediate family members, especially children, reduces the chance of adults re-offending and helps them re-integrate into their communities,” says Landon. “For the children, we are hoping our program reduces the shame and stigma they feel about having an incarcerated parent.”
In only four years, CLICC has expanded from serving just seven families to more than 50 with parents in eight state prisons. The nonprofit works with families in Bridgeport and Greater New Haven, and recently expanded to Hartford.
As a New Haven native, Landon was keenly aware of the mass incarceration problem from an early age. “This affects a lot of people from my community— a lot of people who look like me.”
He earned a master’s in social work from University of Connecticut and had planned to work on prison reform policy. Upon graduation, though, Landon was offered the job with CLICC and saw an opportunity to put his skills to use in a different way.
His CLICC work has led to other leadership roles. Landon now runs a group called “Father Engagement (F.A.C.T.O.R.)” two nights a week through the Community Action Agency of New Haven to support families and encourage fathers to play a more nurturing role in their children’s lives.
Landon is also educating the next generation about mass incarceration. Last spring, he visited Foote to speak about his work with eighth graders, who had raised funds to purchase books for CLICC as part of their study of civil rights—a powerful example of the Foote learning experience coming full circle.
This article originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of Foote Prints magazine.