Tonight in the U.S at least 2.7 million children will go to bed denied access to their parents because that parent(s) is behind bars.

Children of prisoners face some of life’s harshest challenges, including poverty, violence, limited opportunities for a good education, and a future that seems to hold little to no promise.

The stigma of having incarcerated parent(s), coupled with a potentially unstable care arrangement and possible separation from one’s siblings only serves to exacerbate the trauma a child suffers when a parent is incarcerated.

Often, their academic performance deteriorates and they develop other school-related difficulties, and possibly behavioral problems. In addition, they face the added trauma of being ridiculed by their peers.

Despite their numbers, and the intensified risks they face, these children and their families remain mostly invisible to policymakers and social service organizations. Even within their own communities where they are expected to thrive and become positive contributors as adults.

Parental incarceration has been linked to poor academic achievement, truancy, drug and alcohol use, early pregnancy, gang activity, and involvement with the juvenile and adult criminal justice system.

Having a parent incarcerated has a well-documented, devastating effect on children. Not only do these youngsters often grow up without a steady, reliable adult in their lives, they are sometimes separated from their siblings.

Approximately half of children whose mothers are incarcerated live with grandparents, one-quarter with their fathers, and the remaining one-quarter are placed in out-of-home care or live with other relatives or friends in informal placements.

Their new caregivers tend to have low incomes and may lack the social supports and other resources necessary to meet the children’s complex needs.

New York State prison inmates reported that they are parents to more than 80,000 children.

76% of women in custody in New York state prisons reported that they were the parent of one of more children.

One in every 28 children, in the United States, has an incarcerated parent, compared to one in every 125, just 25 years ago.

37% of the prison population has had at least one family member incarcerated, and 22% of all minor children with a parent in prison are under five years old.

60% of imprisoned mothers say they maintain some form of weekly contact with their children; 40% of fathers do so.

Additionally, fewer than half of imprisoned mothers (46%) and fathers (43%) report a personal visit with their children since going to state prison.


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