FAQS About Prison

1) HOW MANY CHILDREN IN THE U.S. HAVE A PARENT THAT IS INCARCERATED?


In America, 2.7 million children (1 in 28) currently have a parent behind bars. Today more than 5 million children (7 percent of all U.S. children) have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives. (Murphey) Researchers believe these numbers are very low due to the social stigma that makes families reluctant to report parental incarceration.


2) WHAT ARE SONE FEELINGS CHILDREN EXPERIENCE WHEN A PARENT IS INCARCERATED?


Children between the ages of 2-6 can feel separation anxiety, traumatic stress and even survivor’s guilt. (Travis) Children between the ages of 7-10 may experience developmental regressions, poor self-concept, acute traumatic stress reactions, and impaired ability to overcome future trauma. (Travis) Children from ages 11-14 may experience rejection on limits of behavior and trauma-reactive behaviors. (Travis) Children from the ages of 15-18 may experience a premature termination of dependency relationship with parent, which may lead them to intergenerational crime and incarceration. (Travis)

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No One is Immune.

3) DO CHILDREN REACT DIFFERENTLY TO THEIR PARENT'S INCARCERATION?


Yes. Younger children tend to experience “disorganized feelings and behaviors upon their parent's incarceration and older children displaying more antisocial behavior, conduct disorders, and signs of depression.” (La Vigne)

While traditionally it has been believed that males suffered more intensely from a parent being put behind bars, some research has shown that males and females just have different reactions to a parent's incarceration, “with boys of fathers behind bars displaying more delinquency and aggression and girls exhibiting more internalizing behaviors and attention problems which leads to self inflicted abuse, instability and sometimes suicide.”


4) DOES HAVING AN INCARCERATED PARENT MEAN A CHILD WILL EVENTUALLY GO TO PRISON?

There is controversy concerning this issue. Ann Adalist-Estrin, Director of the National Resource Center of Children and Families of the Incarcerated in Philadelphia, PA, says: “Without adequate research we cannot say they are more likely to go to prison or jail.”

According to a study conducted by Central Connecticut State University, children of the incarcerated are about three times as likely as other children to be justice-involved. (Conway)

Separation

5) HOW OFTEN DO CHILDREN VISIT THEIR INCARCERATED PARENTS?


“Seventy percent of parents in state prison reported exchanging letters with their children, 53 percent had spoken with their children over the telephone, and 42 percent had a personal visit since admission. Mothers were more likely than fathers to report having had any contact with their children…In federal prison, 85 percent reported telephone contact, 84 percent had exchanged letters, and 55 percent reported having had personal visits.” (Glaze)

Children who continue to stay in touch with their parent in prison exhibit fewer disruptive and anxious behaviors. There is also evidence that it helps the parents as well by lowering recidivism rates and making reunification easier and more likely once the parent is released from prison. (La Vigne)


6) WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES THAT HAMPER VISITING OPPORTUNITIES?


Families usually are strained for money, so it is a huge sacrifice for them to even decide to go and visit a loved one. Plus there is always a chance the prisoner could have been moved. As a security precaution, family members are not usually informed of a prisoner#39;s transfer until after the move is completed. (De Masi)

Visiting procedures vary, but many jails and prisons require visitors to be separated from the prisoner by a thick glass window, which means they have to talk to each other using telephones. Also many visitors must undergo frisk and search procedures before entering the visitation area. Crowded visiting rooms and long wait times are common. These conditions often deter family members from wanting to visit their incarcerated loved one. (Hairston)

References Cited:

  • Conway, James M. and Edward T. Jones. Seven out of Ten? Not Even Close: A Review of Research on the Likelihood of Children with Incarcerated Parents Becoming Justice Involved. Central Connecticut State University, 2015.
  • De Masi, Mary and Cate Bohn. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Children With Incarcerated Parents: A Journey of Children, Caregivers and Parents in New York State, 2010.
  • Glaze, Lauren. U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children, 2010.
  • Hairston, Creasie. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Kinship Care When Parents Are Incarcerated: What We Know, What We Can Do, 2009.
  • La Vigne, Nancy, Elizabeth Davies, and Diana Brazzell. Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. Broken Bonds Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarcerated Parents, 2008.
  • Murphey, D., & Cooper, P. M. Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children? Washington, DC: Child Trends, 2015, October.
  • Western, Bruce and Becky Petit. The Pew Charitable Trusts. Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility, 2010.

Community Support

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“One People. One Love.”

Less than a fraction of a

fraction of 1% of the world population are living without constant trauma and crisis in their daily lives. The various crisis most people experience are preventable and recoverable. 

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Community Involvement

Children thrive at incredible rates when they have support from loved ones in their family and their community..

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Raising the leaders of tomorrow

“To refuse support for children in need, is to lose the right protest of their misbehaving.”