More than five million children in the U.S. have or have had a parent imprisoned. And the consequences can be devastating.
According to “A Shared Sentence,” a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Having a parent incarcerated is a stressful, traumatic experience of the same magnitude as abuse, domestic violence, and divorce.”
According to the report:
“As the U.S. prison population surged during the past several decades, so too did the number of children and families experiencing the consequences of having a loved one incarcerated. From 1980 to 2000, the number of kids with a father in prison or jail rose by 500 percent. Now more than 5 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives, including 503,000 in California, 477,000 in Texas and 312,000 in Florida. The situation is even worse in many other states, especially Kentucky, which has the highest rate of children — 13 percent — who have had a parent incarcerated.”
In response, the report recommends three important steps to take.
First, ensure there is adequate support for children whose parents are incarcerated. Second, provide support for parents returning from prison to the workforce. Finally — and most importantly for those taking a holistic view of the crisis — strengthen communities in order “to promote family stability and opportunity.”
“The high-poverty neighborhoods that are home to many kids and families dealing with incarceration lack quality affordable housing, access to jobs, good schools and key resources,” the report says.
“Together, these factors can impede children’s academic success and increase their likelihood of dropping out of school,” which has repeatedly been shown to perpetuate the cycle of poverty and incarceration.