Children of Incarcerated Parents, a Shared Sentence

The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

April 19, 2016


More than 5 million U.S. children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their lives. The incarceration of a parent can have as much impact on a child’s well-being as abuse or domestic violence. But while states spend heavily on corrections, few resources exist to support parental incarceration. A Shared Sentence offers commonsense proposals to address the increased poverty and stress that children of incarcerated parents experience.

Table of Contents

Key Parental Incarceration Takeaway

Children Who Have Experienced Parental Incarceration: 2011-2012

Nationally, the number of kids who have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their childhood hovers around 5.1 million — a conservative estimate. Children with incarcerated parents are significantly less likely to live in neighborhoods that are able to be supportive of families.

Findings & Parental Incarceration Stats

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Atlanta is organized into 25 neighborhood planning units (NPUs). NPUs J, L, V and Z represent 11% of the city’s population but are home to 25% of its residents returning from prison. All four communities, which are mostly African American, exceed the city’s average child poverty rate, and NPUs L, V and Z more than double it.

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In Indianapolis, District 17’s incarceration and reentry rates are the highest in the city and 18 times those of District 3, which has the lowest rates. Although each area comprises about 5% of the city’s population, District 17 is home to 12% of all residents returning from prison.

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In Lower South Providence, the percentage of people returning from prison is five times higher, at 5%, than Fox Point’s 1%. Lower South Providence also has the city’s highest child poverty rate, which is more than triple that of its neighbor.