From 2011 to 2012, roughly eight percent of the District’s children had a parent who had been in jail or prison at some point in that child’s life, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The national report looks at the impact parental incarceration has on families, including the creation of “unstable environment[s] for kids that can have lasting effects on their development and well-being,” a greater likelihood for kids of incarcerated people to live in poverty than their peers, and disproportionate burdens on people of color. The report pegs the total number of children who’ve had a parent incarcerated at 5 million, “a conservative estimate,” ranging from three percent in New Jersey to 13 percent in Kentucky.
“Our ‘tough on crime’ policies put a tremendous amount of burden and trauma on more than [9,000] children in the District,” HyeSook Chung, executive director of D.C. Action for Children—a grantee of the Casey Foundation—said in a statement. “In order for these children to succeed later in life, we must ensure that they are supported, both while their parents are incarcerated and after they return.”
Among the report’s recommendations: supporting programs that help maintain a child’s relationship with their incarcerated parent, promoting mentorship opportunities for kids, and connecting returning citizens with “pathways to employment.” It also notes that the District, as well as states like Arizona and Michigan, “allow incarcerated fathers to have [child-support] payments reduced or halted during their time in prison,” which helps stem the accumulation of post-prison debt. But “California goes further, suspending child support orders if a parent is incarcerated for more than three months and unable to make payments.”
You can read the full report here.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery