Fact Sheets Offers Sobering Look at Parents in Prison
Date:  02-03-2013

Intervention, rather than incarceration, might have kept many families intact
A new fact sheet on incarcerated parents provides a sobering look at America’s policy of incarcerating its citizens. In addition to the huge increase in the number of parents that have been incarcerated between 1991 and 2007, the Sentencing Project also provides a list of “missed opportunities for intervention,” before and after incarceration:

Compared with the general population, parents in prison are more likely to have problems that may place children at risk for social and emotional problems:

  • Nine percent of parents in prison were homeless in the year before the arrest leading to their current imprisonment.

  • Twenty percent were physically or sexually abused prior to their imprisonment.

  • Thirty-eight percent do not have a high school diploma or GED.

  • Forty-one percent have infectious medical problems (including tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases).

  • Fifty-seven percent have current mental health problems.

  • Sixty-seven percent have a recent history of alcohol or drug abuse.

    The Sentencing Project fact sheet also addresses the collateral consequences children of an incarcerated parent face, including being sent to foster care:

  • The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (AFSA) authorized the termination of parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of the past 22 months.

  • One in thirty (three percent) parents in state prisons has a child in foster care.

  • As of 2004, fifty-eight percent of parents in state prisons and seventy-six percent of federal prisons were expected to serve twelve months or more.

  • In 2007, 1.7 million children had a parent in prison on any given day.

  • The number of children with parents in prison increased eighty percent between 1991 and 2007.

  • One in fifteen black children, one in forty-two Latino children, and one in one hundred-eleven white children had a parent in prison in 2007.

  • Black children are 7.5 times more likely and Latino children are 2.6 times more likely than are white children to have a parent in prison.

    Source: The Sentencing Project
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