Collateral Consequences of Incarceration

posted in: Sentencing Consequences | 0

A special thanks to Pat Nolan over at Justice Fellowship for pointing out this article discussing the collateral consequences of incarceration for children with a parent in jail or prison.  Here is an excerpt from Children, family of prisoners pay hefty price from the Muskegon Chronicle by Teresa Taylor Williams:

Financial strain is one of several elements that comes into play for those left behind when a loved one is sent to prison. For children of incarcerated parents, studies show anger and abandonment are common emotions. There also may be resentment from the parent or caregiver left to care for the household. And sometimes, caregivers or family cut off all ties with the one who left for prison.

According to a report released in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children of prisoners are more likely to go to jail than to graduate high school, and are seven times more likely to go to jail than children whose moms or dads have not served time behind bars. A local program that attempts to stop that cycle is the Family Advocate Program through Catholic Charities West Michigan. The pilot began this year, and the goal is to provide support to 25 local families of the incarcerated.

Additional information regarding family members as collateral crime victims is available here.  A free white paper Families of the Incarcerated is available for download from  Here are a few excerpts from the white paper:

Children with an incarcerated mother or father face significant family instability that disrupts their crucial years of development.  They are more prone to aggressive behavior, sever traumatic stress, and poor academic performance. They also suffer economic hardship that surpasses that of their peers.  Having strong, supportive relationships with their incarcerated parent is one of the best ways to protect children from these risks and help them navigate the challenges confronting them.

Programs which involve families in offenders’ lives show better results. The way the U.S. government deals with crime and punishment truly has profound implications for families, by either tearing them apart or knitting them closer together.

To build safe, healthy communities, we must protect offenders’ families, strengthening the relationships that children need to thrive and the bonds that their parents need to become peaceful, contributing members of society.

The “business as usual” propensity to use incarceration as the primary response to illegal behavior is destroying families and communities with a smoke & mirrors solution.  The collateral consequences of incarceration perpetuate themselves and the underlying issues contributing to the illegal behavior, resulting in ever increasing numbers of Americans being incarcerated.

The tipping point has been reached and the solution has become the problem.