New Report on Children of the Incarcerated

Via Sentencing Law and Policy, there is a new report on children of the incarcerated:

Fifty-three percent of the 1.5 million people held in U.S. prisons by 2007 were the parents of one or more minor children. This percentage translates into more than 1.7 million minor children with an incarcerated parent.

African American children are seven and Latino children two and half times more likely to have a parent in prison than white children. The estimated risk of parental imprisonment for white children by the age of 14 is one in 25, while for black children it is one in four by the same age.

The full report is here. [More...]

The consequences:

  • Three times the odds that children will engage in antisocial or delinquent behavior (violence or drug abuse).
  • Negative outcomes as children and adults (school failure and unemployment).
  • Twice the odds of developing serious mental health problems.

Check out Stepping Stones and the Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents:

1. I have the right to be kept safe and informed at the time of my parent's arrest.
2. I have the right to be heard when decisions are made about me.
3. I have the right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent.
4. I have the right to be well cared for in my parent's absence.
5. I have the right to speak with, see, and touch my parent.
6. I have the right to support as I struggle with my parent's incarceration.
7. I have the right not to be judged, blamed or labeled because my parent is incarcerated.
8. I have the right to a lifelong relationship with my parent.


And a very moving article by Chesa Boudin, son of former Weatherground members Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, In Prison Again, I am the Son of Inmate 83A6158, on what it was like to visit his parents in jail for 17 years.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Good linkage J... (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 08:30:20 AM EST
    it is important to remember...everytime we cage somebody, we are often punishing more than the person we intend to punish.

    In cases of violent crime we may have no choice, but in the cases of non-crime where we lock people up?  This hard work by Justice Stategies illustrates we are doing far more harm than good to society at large.

    Some of us have long known/suspected that, but maybe emphasizing the effect on the kids with hard stats will wake more people the f*ck up to the great harm we do running a Prison Nation.

    Something I noticed as a juvenile (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:37:34 AM EST
    probation officer and boys.....if your father was incarcerated it easily becomes a part of your blueprint to manhood.  We all look up to our fathers and there is no way around that, this is the one single person packing the testosterone that is meant to protect us (his DNA) in the midst of a hostile society and world.  Often having a father in prison can become internalized in such a way that in order to fully become "a man" incarceration must be survived.

    Incarceration is supposed to shame the criminal too, but it ends up shaming that person's children as well.  Kids end up wondering how much of them....which parts of them are criminal, often convinced they must be criminal in nature too.  The most loyal children or the children needing the most love will usually end up finding ways to feel proud about incarceration in order to survive the loss and the shame and horror, and in the end seek ways to repeat the process in their own adult life.  I had one kid who came from two generations of incarcerated men....Uncles too, he looked forward to his incarceration someday, it would signal his full transition to manhood.


    Good points Tracy... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 10:57:56 AM EST
    and then there is the economic hardship...sentencing the uncaged parent, if any, and the child to an increased likelyhood of poverty.

    I always end of thinking of my buddy who got locked up for dealing...the only reason he started dealing was he got laid off from his job, and his infant daughter needed food and diapers.  He did what he felt he had to do as a new father to provide...and we caged him for it.  His daughter and her mother ended up on food stamps.

    Now if the state had just left him alone, his daughter woulda had a present father and been provided for, and the state woulda saved a bundle on his senseless imprisonment and all the public assistance while he was locked up. And for what?  Damned if I know...


    Doesn't (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:15:40 AM EST
    the parent bear some responsibility for this? I'm not speaking just of your friend, but this report which says how disadvantaged kids of incarcerated parents have it.  There are all kinds of problems with incarceration, sure, but at some point, don't parents have the number one responsibility of ensuring they are around to take care of their children?

    Yes... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:32:10 AM EST
    they bear some responsibility.  More in cases of real crime, less to little to none in cases of non-crime, imko.

    But, as always, we must expect better from the state and its systems than we do from random individuals...the state needs to bring the children into consideration more, for the benefit of the child and society at large.  


    I guess part of the problem is (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 11:59:12 AM EST
    What you consider a "non-crime" actually IS a crime. Now, you may disagree as to what should be legal and what should not, but that's a different conversation.

    As it stands now, X,Y, and Z are crimes.  Everyone knows that.  These incarcerated in prison with children, at some point made a decision to to X, Y, or Z, knowing those acts were illegal and that they ran a risk of getting caught.  They may have had a very good reason for doing what they did (such as your friend, but that does not excuse their actions.  And now their children are suffering.


    Not by any objective measure... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 12:58:59 PM EST
    are they crimes...but I gotcha, we've argued this in circles many times.  

    Would you at least agree the state can and should do more for the children of those they cage, regardless of the charge?  Including consideration at sentencing?


    Absolutely (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 13, 2011 at 03:02:27 PM EST
    I don't ever think innocent children of parents who make bad life decisions should pay for the crimes of their parents.

    I'm not sure what "consideration" you'd want - without getting discriminatory (Joe robs a convenience store and gets sentenced to a lesser sentence of probation because he has kids; Bob robs a convenience store and has no kids, so he pays the actual penalty in jail time). I believe we should funnel more money into programs that will help these children. Better use of money than some of the things we spend it on.

    Of course, that also assumes that Joe will see the light and clean up his act and set a better example for his kids. I don't ever think someone should be able to avoid responsibility for their actions by saying "But I have kids."  My response would be, "Yes, you should have though about them before you did what you did."


    crimes and "non-crimes" (none / 0) (#9)
    by diogenes on Fri Jan 14, 2011 at 10:21:42 PM EST
         How many of you defense lawyers whose clients went to state prison (as opposed to brief county jail, probation, drug court or adjournment in contemplation of dismissal) had clients who committed NO prior crimes for which they were never prosecuted and did NOT commit the crime for they which were sentenced?
         Most people convicted of non-violent drug possession have possessed drugs hundreds of times before their arrest.  They have done the crime.  If people think that making possession of drugs legal will somehow improve the lives of African American children, then by all means let's make possession legal.
         Families I treat in which the father has committed actual violent crimes of such seriousness as to earn state prison time (often violence against the mother) sometimes actually dread the father's release from prison.  The sons are in a cycle of prison not because the father went to prison.  The sons may be in a cycle of violent crime because the father was a violent criminal.  

    immaterial (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 12:50:54 AM EST
    people are guilty only of the crimes for which they have been found guilty in a court of law. Judges instruct juries they may not convict a defendant for a crime not charged in the indictment. One instruction in a drug conspiracy case, for example, tells the jury that if they find the defendant was a member of a drug conspiracy other than the one charged in the indictment, they must acquit.

    Your comment is nothing but your opinion, and it's a sorry one, not well thought out or backed by anything but what you claim is your own anecdotal experience. It's also directly contrary to the principles of this blog, so now that you've registered it, please move on to a different topic.I hope its ignored.

    And to answer your question, many of my clients who have gone to state and federal prison did so as a first offender for a non-violent offense.

    Also, federal mandatory minimum sentence laws apply to first offenders (unless they cooperate or get a "safety valve" which like cooperating, requires them to tell the government everything about their offense, including their source if demanded.)