Children and Families of the Incarcerated Fact Sheet
This information came from the recent newsletter put out by Kate Boccia of the NIA – The NATIONAL INCARCERATION ASSOCIATION. It was compiled by Rutgers University – National Resource Center on Children & Families of the Incarcerated
Many people do not have a clear understanding of how children have been affected by our government’s “War of Drugs” and how they are beholden to the contracts the US government has with the Prison Industrial Complex. They hold the government responsible for keeping our prisons filled to the max. Since the government is required to pay the PIC for empty beds, they are more than willing to lock up people by any means whether they are guilty or not. And if they are guilty, the sentences far exceed anything that would help with rehabilitation. If they ruin the people locked up, so much the better. That means they will probably get locked up again because they lost the ability to function in society because of the abuse they received while inside.
Why should they care? Because it is the right thing to do? The prisons are stocked with predominantly Blacks, Hispanics and poor minorities who don’t have the resources too fight back. I use the word “stocked” because that is exactly what they do. It doesn’t matter if they are people. They believe these people exist for them to use for profit. Unfortunately, too many people don’t care because they have been slammed with propaganda telling them these people have criminal tendencies, lower intelligence and are not safe to be around. Lock them up. Most people are out for themselves. Unless it affects their family they don’t have time to care.
But the children who are affected do care. Their lives are also chewed up by the system. it is not just their parents who are locked up. It affects their lives. What do they learn? How does it affect their adulthood. Is our government, along with the prison system intending on grooming the next generation of adult inmates? When does the government become responsible for the damage they do to the families? So many of these children end up is fostercare. 70% of those locked up right now went through the fostercare system, having no reliable adult in their lives who genuinely cared about them.
Below are some statistics you should read through very carefully. With the new crimes the Trump administration is dreaming up because crime is down, and they can no longer lock someone up for decades for smoking a little pot, much to Jeff Sessions disappointment, they will have to find new prisoners somehow. We’ve already been reading about some of these new crimes. Do you think you are safe? Are your children safe? Think again.
The growing number of children with an incarcerated parent represents one of the most significant collateral consequences of the record prison population in the U.S.
Children with Parents in Prison Demographics
More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. That is 1 in 28
Approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives.
One in 9 African American children (11.4%), 1 in 28 Hispanic children (3.5%), and 1 in 57
white children (1.8%) in the United States have an incarcerated parent.
Approximately half of children with incarcerated parents are under ten years old.
While many of the risk factors children of incarcerated parents experience may be related to parental substance abuse, mental health, inadequate education, or other
challenges, parental incarceration increases the risk of children living in poverty or
experiencing household instability independent of these other problems.
A misperception exists that children of incarcerated parents are more likely to be
incarcerated than their peers, and are predisposed to criminal activity. There is no basis
for this in existing research.
Parental incarceration is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE); it
is distinguished from other adverse childhood experiences by the unique combination of
trauma, shame, and stigma.
2% of incarcerated fathers and 8 ‐ 10% of mothers have children in foster care
(these data do not include at least some persons in prison with children in kinship foster
Information from one study on children in Foster Care with incarcerated parents provides the following data
25% of children live with their fathers when a mother goes to prison.
90% of children remain with their mothers when the father is incarcerated
50% of children with an incarcerated mother live with their grandmothers
In the child welfare system, 1 in 10 children in in – home settings is living with someone who is on probation.
About 15 ‐ 20% of children entering the child welfare system have an incarcerated parent
About 1 in every 5 African American children who come to the attention of child welfare agencies have a recently arrested parent compared to only 1 in 10 White children and only 1 in 20 Hispanic children.
Incarcerated parents lose their parental rights at a disproportionate rate due to the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) which set strict timelines for initiating Termination of Parental Rights (placement cannot exceed 15 of previous 22 months)
Parents in Prison
In 2010 1.5 million people were in State or Federal prison in the U.S, and 750,000 in jails.
This is a 10% decline from 2009 but still significantly higher than 1980 when “mass incarceration” began.
92% of people in prison are male, 8% female.
The number of women in prison increased by 587% between 1980 and 2011, rising from 15,118 to 111,387
Including women in local jails, more than 200,000 women are now incarcerated in the US
Nationally, there are more than 120,000 incarcerated mothers and 1 million incarcerated fathers who are parents of minor children (ages 0 – 17).
44 – 55% Percent of fathers had at least one minor child living with them before incarceration
64 – 84% Percent of mothers had at least one minor child living with them before incarceration
59 percent of fathers and 58 percent of mothers had no personal visits from any of their children.
62% of parents in state prisons and 84% of parents in federal prisons are held over 100 miles away from their residence. 43% of parents in federal prisons are held over 500 miles away from their last residence.
The uneven geographic distribution of incarceration in poor communities and communities of color means that the effects radiate beyond the individual to the
broader community, presenting profound long ‐ term consequences for family
integrity, public health and general quality of life.
54 % of men and 73% of women have a history of mental health “problems” as opposed to 25% entering prison with a mental health diagnosis.
In 2010, 93% of Federal Prisoners were convicted of non ‐ violent crimes, including 48% for drug offenses, and 11% for immigration offenses.
In 2010, 47% of State Prisoners were convicted of non ‐ violent crimes, including 17% for drug offenses, and 18% for property offenses and 13% for Public Order offenses.
More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities.
These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two – thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
Roughly two ‐ thirds of women in prison are women of color, representing the fastest growing prison population
Blacks make up 12.3 percent of US population and 43.9% of the state and federal prison population. Latinos constitute 12.6% of the country’s population, but make up 18.3% of the prison population. Whites are 69% of the general population with only 34.7% of those
If these trends continue, one in every 3 Black males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.
Care must be taken with these data on disproportionate representation of children of color so as not to interpret them as an indictment of specific groups of people but rather as a reflection of the long ‐ term impact of poverty, segregation, discrimination and urbanization.
Caregivers of children with parents in prison bear numerous burdens, including stigma and shame associated with having a family member in prison, increased financial strain,
physical and emotional stress, and lack of external resources.
Public assistance programs, including TANF were not designed with relative caregivers in mind. Grandparents especially are reluctant to seek support for fear of losing the children to the child welfare system.
Caregivers struggle with multiple challenges in fostering continued relationships between children and their parents in prison.
Most prisons are not accessible by any form of public transportation, restricting child
‐ parent visits. In some cases this means children will never visit their parents.
Collect phone calls from prisoners are subject to excessive surcharges, an economic
burden most caregivers cannot manage. Familial incarceration can be characterized as an “ambiguous loss” leading to “disenfranchised grief.”
Caring for children who are experiencing the stigma and blame associated with parental incarceration is particularly difficult for caregivers and may be taxing emotionally and physically.
One study conducted in 1998 estimated that of the parents arrested: 67% were handcuffed in front of their children
27% reported weapons drawn in front of their children 4.3% reported a physical struggle
3.2% reported the use of pepper spray.
Children who witnessed an arrest of household member were 57% more likely to have elevated post traumatic stress symptoms compared to children who did not witness an arrest.
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Fact Sheet Resources
1 Bernstein, N., All Alone in the World, Children of the Incarcerate, 2005
The Pew Charitable Trusts: Pew Center on the States.
Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC. 2010
Mauer, M., Nellis, A., Schirmir, S.; Incarcerated Parents and Their Children – Trends 1991-2007, The Sentencing Project, Feb. 2009 – http://www.sentencingproject.org.
The Pew Charitable Trusts: Pew Center on the States.
Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC. 2010
Mauer, M., Nellis, A., Schirmir, S.; Incarcerated Parents and Their Children – Trends 1991-2007, The
Sentencing Project, Feb. 2009
Phillips, S.D., Errantly, A., Keeler, G.P., Costello, J.E., An gold, A., Johnston, D., et al. (2006).
Disentangling the risks: Parent criminal justice involvement and children’s exposure to family risks. Criminology and Public Policy, 5, 677–702
Raimon, M., Lee, A., & Genty, P. (2009). Sometimes Good Intentions Yield Bad Results: ASFA’s Effect on Incarcerated Parents and Their Children.
Hairston, C.F. (2007). Focus on the children with incarcerated parents: A overview of the research literature. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Mumola, C.J.-Incarcerated Parents and Their Children (NCJ-182335). Washington, D.C.
US Department of Justice, BOJS, 2000
Philips Ph.D., Susan D., Gleeson, Ph.D., James P., Children, Families and the Criminal
Justice System, A Research Brief, Center for Social Policy and Research. University of
Illinois, Chicago 2007.
Johnson-Peterkin,Yolanda Children of Incarcerated Parents Information Packet. National
Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning, 2003
Mauer, M. Addressing Racial Racial Disparities in Incarceration.Sage Publications 2011
Tavis, Jeremy, Solomon, Amy, 2003, Families Left Behind, Urban Institute, Justice Policy
Vigne, N., Davies, E., Brazzell, D, Feb. 2008Broken Bonds, Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarceraetd Parents.
Margolies, J.K., Kraft-Stolar, T, Feb. 2006, When “Free” Means Losing Your Mother, A Report of The Women in Prison Project of Correctional Association of New York
Hairston, C.R., 2007, Focus on Children of Incarcerated Parents, An Overview of the Research Literature, A Report for the Annie E. Casey Foundation Arditti, J.2012,
Parental Incarceration and the Family ( Pages 103-105) New York University Press
Phillips, S., Gates, T.2010, A conceptual framework for understanding
the stigmatization of children of incarcerated parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20,286-294. 8 Phillips, S. D. (1998). Programming for children of female offenders. Proceedings from 4th National Head Start Research Conference. Washington, D.C.
Phillips, S.D., & Zhao, J. (2010). The relationship between witnessing arrests and elevated
symptoms of post traumatic stress: Findings from a national study of children involved in the child welfare system.
Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1246 – 1254
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