Parents in prison are a unique population with unique challenges, as are the children dealing with the stigma, loss and guilt. This report seeks to develop a better understanding of the challenges parents, children and caregivers face through a review of empirical research on the topic. It also offers a series of recommendations for how this population can be better served.
Over 1.5 million children had a parent in state or federal prison in 2002.
Children who maintain contact with their parent during incarceration exhibit fewer disruptive and anxious behaviors
Nearly half of all state and federal prisoners at the time of this report had at least one minor child.
Crime and Time
Parent prisoners had an average sentence of 80 to 103 month,s most often for crimes involving a violent offense or drug trafficking.
Among a sample of teenagers with incarcerated mothers, 66% also had a father behind bars.
Many children whose parents become incarcerated are relieved of a stressful, dangerous home environment.
Black kids are almost 9 times more likely than white kids to have a parent in prison while Hispanic kids are 3 times more likely than white.
Statements & Quotations
The barriers to communication between a child and his or her incarcerated parent are tremendous and are complicated by the fact that caregivers may be reluctant to facilitate such contact.
Children of incarcerated mothers tend to have more varied and uncertain living arrangements. The majority do not live with their fathers, instead residing in the care of grandparents, other relatives, or friends.
It is safe to conclude that parental incarceration impacts a large and increasing number of children, most of whom are young, poor, and black or Hispanic.
Aside from financial barriers, many of the policies and procedures designed to promote safety within the prison also discourage visits, as family members often encounter intimidating, uncomfortable, and humiliating conditions that may deter future contact.
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