Almost 3 million children in the United States, under the age of 18, have a parent in prison. Children of prisoners face significant uncertainty in nearly every aspect of their lives. They often experience the trauma of multiple changes in caregivers, separation from siblings and inconsistent living arrangements.
Studies have shown that parental arrest and confinement often lead to stress, trauma, shame and separation anxiety which may be compounded by existing poverty, violence, substance abuse and high crime communities. Many children of incarcerated parents are angry and lash out at others, leading to disruptions in school and confrontations with law enforcement and other authority figures.
In the United States, 54% of incarcerated men and women are parents with minor children, including more than 120,000 mothers and 1.1 million fathers.
While there are more than 105,000 minor children with a parent in the New York State prison systems, there is no information collected on them in a systematic fashion and there are no public policies or government agencies in place to address their needs. Very few social service or community organizations focus specific attention on this large, high needs population.
When a child loses a parent due to death or is separated as a result of divorce or military deployment, the child receives a level of sympathy and understanding from the community. When a parent is away serving time in prison the child does not receive the same level of compassion and empathy from members of society.
- More than 2.7 million children in the United States, have a parent in prison.
- One in every 28 children, in the United States, have an incarcerated parent, compared to one in every 125, just 25 years ago.
- There are more than 105,000 minor children with a parent in the New York State jail and prison systems.
- In New York State, 58% of incarcerated men and 73% of imprisoned women are parents to children under the age of 18.
- In the United States, the number of children of incarcerated parents under the age of 18 increased by 80% between 1991 and midyear 2007.
- One in 9 African American children, 1 in 28 Hispanic children and 1 in 57 white children in the United States have an incarcerated parent.
- One in every one hundred adults in America is incarcerated in a state or federal prison