Jul 7, 2009

When Parents Go To Prison

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran an interesting article this Sunday entitled: In Prisoners' Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids. The article, citing research by Christopher Wildman at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, identifies parental incarceration as a growing risk factor for American youth, particularly for African-American children. There are over 1.5 million children with an incarcerated parent, according to federal data reviewed by the Times. These children face increased risk factors including homelessness and mental illness.

The collateral consequences for children of incarcerated parents, the custodial parent and community raise important questions we think. Given the data identifying the increased risk factors for children of incarcerated parents, what interventions can work to reduce the risks associated with having a parent in prison? Should the risk to offenders' children be considered in sentencing, and how can it be measured against the risk of having a parent who is engaged in criminal conduct? What are the elements of effective reentry for incarcerated parents?

We know many of you are already working on this issue. We invite your comments on the article and the questions raised.