A new Sesame Street jail plotline addresses a sticky and somewhat under-addressed issue in American families — parental incarceration.
The show is known to not shy away from controversial topics, and the Sesame Street jail issue handles the feelings of children as they face the circumstance of a parent who is currently in prison.
The Sesame Street jail story arc is the latest in milestones on the show in which a touchy and sad issue has been addressed via muppets living through some of the harder aspects of family life.
As The Inquisitr reported in 2012, the Sesame Street jail episode follows a Sesame Street divorce plotline in which popular muppet Abby Cadabby is revealed to have parents living in separate homes.
Divorce was an issue attempted bySesame Street far earlier in a proposed and scrapped plot where furry mammoth Snuffy’s parents had separated and the friend of Big Bird dealt with his emotions. But a sad segment in which Snuffy decried his father’s move to “some cave across town” was deemed too sad, and the issue went unaddressed until last year.
In the 80s, death was introduced as another hard topic when the show’s beloved Mr. Hooper passed on after the actor who played him died in real life.
Now the show is introducing Alex, another muppet who is facing a hard thing. Alex’s dad is in jail, and Sesame Workshop has created the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” info set to help families cope with a parent in prison.
One in 28 American kids is living Alex’s situation, and on Sesame Street, Alex explains:
“I just miss him so much… I usually don’t want people to know about my Dad.”
Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of outreach and educational practices at the Sesame Workshop, said that kids can relate more easily to muppets on Sesame Street than people in real life articulating their feelings sometimes:
“Coming from a Muppet, it’s almost another child telling their story to the children.”
Betancourt also says:
“We wanted to help children know they are not alone and it’s not their fault. They can ask questions… They are not alone either and there are ways they can connect with the resources.”
NBC reports that Carol Burton, executive director of incarceration support non-profit Centerforce, said more starkly:
“There are several million children impacted by incarceration in this country… No one is paying attention to them.”
The Sesame Street jail episode also features live children discussing their feelings about a parent in jail.