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How the Prison State Destroys Families, 1 in 8 Poor Children have a Parent Behind Bars

The first wave of prison releases, under reforms put out by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, began last week. Approximately 6,000 federal prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug-trafficking offenses are being freed as judges across the country cut original sentences.

The move is a heartening sign that government is at least making a gesture to the problem of mass incarceration, mostly brought about by an immoral War on Drugs.

The ill effects of locking up so many people for nonviolent, victimless crimes are wide and varied, and it impacts families as much as the prisoners themselves.

Underscoring this is the shocking fact that one in 14 children has at least one parent behind bars. It’s almost twice as bad for poor children—with one in eight having a parent in prison—and black children, with one in nine having a parent in prison.

Only ten years ago, 60,000 children in the U.S. had a parent behind bars. Today, that number is 2.7 million.

The national research organization, Child Trends, reported their analysis of 2011-2012 data in Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children?

“The issue of what some people have termed mass incarceration in the United States has really attracted a lot of attention so we were interested in looking at this issue,” David Murphey, report co-author and senior research scientist at Child Trends, said in a telephone interview with USA TODAY. “We feel it’s important to put this on the radar screen” and help people “realize there’s more to it than the adults themselves,” Murphey said.”

They say that children with parents in prison typically suffer from problems in their personal life, such as low self-esteem, and problems in school.

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“Most research finds negative outcomes for these children, such as childhood health and behavioral problems and grade retention,” said Murphey. “Children who grow up with a parent in prison are more likely to suffer from poor mental and physical health in adulthood.”

Hope for Miami, which advocates for children of incarcerated parents, adds that the kids often experience depression and shame, and are more likely to get in trouble with law enforcement. Many incarcerated mothers tell their children they are away at college.

“The stigma and shame associated with it is haunting, so that’s why the more awareness the better,” said Deborah Jiang-Stein, who was born in prison and founded the unPrison Project. “Addiction and trauma and developmental delays impact every kid that I’ve said has a parent in prison. Part of it is the loss that no one talks about. And the less we talk, the more damage it is.”

Since the War on Drugs went into full force in the 1970s and 80s, the U.S. has become the world’s largest prison state, having 4.4% of the world’s population but 22% of its prisoners. And the fact is, creating more prisoners does not reduce crime.

It is time to do away with mandatory minimum sentences and end the practice of criminalizing people for victimless deeds. Bureaucrats cite the burgeoning costs of keeping so many people in prison, but more important is the denial of civil rights to nonviolent prisoners and the devastating effect it has on the nation’s youth.

Below is a heart-wrenching video by Children of Promise, a community-based, non-profit organization, in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed Stuy) Brooklyn, whose mission is to embrace the children of incarcerated parents and empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system.

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  • Please (Y) + Comment + Share this story. Thank you from all of us at The Free Thought Project.com.

  • Please (Y) + Comment + Share this story. Thank you from all of us at The Free Thought Project.com.

  • Its not just children with parents in Jail or prison, Its also children taken by the state when parents haven’t done anything illegal.

  • Its not just children with parents in Jail or prison, Its also children taken by the state when parents haven’t done anything illegal.

  • I would have to lay a lot of this is the feet of the failed war on drugs.

  • I would have to lay a lot of this is the feet of the failed war on drugs.

  • Private prison job security. They create criminals to incarcerate.

  • Private prison job security. They create criminals to incarcerate.

  • Yes

  • Yes

  • 1 in 8 that number’s Scary! great post

  • 1 in 8 that number’s Scary! great post

  • sorry

  • sorry

  • What was the parent charged with? An innocent is one thing ..a theif, drug dealer, or murder is another

  • What was the parent charged with? An innocent is one thing ..a theif, drug dealer, or murder is another

  • So sad

  • So sad

  • It fails to mention fathers. Father’s matter just as much.

  • It fails to mention fathers. Father’s matter just as much.

  • The State does not care about familys.

    • Families need to take care of their own and keep it out of the hands of the state for fuck sakes

  • The State does not care about familys.

    • Families need to take care of their own and keep it out of the hands of the state for fuck sakes

  • Shit parents Shit kids and around and around it goes.

  • Shit parents Shit kids and around and around it goes.

  • This happens only in US. Also, ADHD and many other “disorders” only happen in US.

  • This happens only in US. Also, ADHD and many other “disorders” only happen in US.

  • Whose yo daddy? I donno, he’s never around, but I heard he’s in jail. But let’s blame that on the cops, the prisons, or the legal system, anybody but me. I don’t like personal responsibility, and I took off as soon as I heard dat bitch was pregnant.

  • Whose yo daddy? I donno, he’s never around, but I heard he’s in jail. But let’s blame that on the cops, the prisons, or the legal system, anybody but me. I don’t like personal responsibility, and I took off as soon as I heard dat bitch was pregnant.

  • I live in a small town of about 100. One man that lived here is serving life mainly due to the fact that he drunk too much and the three strikes. He has children that live with there grand parents. His oldest son seems bound to follow his father to prison.

    • does that mean 3 times drunk driving…he got life in prison what the fuck

    • Was not even that bad. He had a bad drinking problem. I have seen him drinking out of a bottle several times and he did tend to get falling down drunk.

    • What got him life was that wile on a long drunk he stolid a car stereo. punishments are worse than the crimes..

  • I live in a small town of about 100. One man that lived here is serving life mainly due to the fact that he drunk too much and the three strikes. He has children that live with there grand parents. His oldest son seems bound to follow his father to prison.

    • does that mean 3 times drunk driving…he got life in prison what the fuck

    • Was not even that bad. He had a bad drinking problem. I have seen him drinking out of a bottle several times and he did tend to get falling down drunk.

    • What got him life was that wile on a long drunk he stolid a car stereo. punishments are worse than the crimes..

  • POLICE,,,keep kids with their parents,,putting parents in jail is wrong,,you punish kids that way for crimes they did not commit and for you to get a promotion and big pay,,,those are the kids on the streets and you police put them there…think twice.

  • POLICE,,,keep kids with their parents,,putting parents in jail is wrong,,you punish kids that way for crimes they did not commit and for you to get a promotion and big pay,,,those are the kids on the streets and you police put them there…think twice.

  • I think the worst aspect is some of the parents have kids for all the wrong reasons. Kids are costly and look at the foster care system and how many are there because the family is poor or have been taken away. It is a big problem for America. Other 3rd world nations may have less resources but for a nation as such to have as many problems as it has it is ridiculous and it is not only the police, politicians, and rich/poor people’s problem it is a societal failure of epic proportions,

  • I think the worst aspect is some of the parents have kids for all the wrong reasons. Kids are costly and look at the foster care system and how many are there because the family is poor or have been taken away. It is a big problem for America. Other 3rd world nations may have less resources but for a nation as such to have as many problems as it has it is ridiculous and it is not only the police, politicians, and rich/poor people’s problem it is a societal failure of epic proportions,

  • Corporations have been destroying families for decades..

  • Corporations have been destroying families for decades..

  • Or. Just or. When people become parents they could be fucking responsible and just focus on raising their kids the right way and not have this even be an issue. Wake up America

    • Must be nice to be perfect.

    • Not perfect just know what my priorities are and my daughter has always been number fucking one. Nothing else mattered and that’s the commitment I made when I became a father. Real easy to make excuses.

  • Or. Just or. When people become parents they could be fucking responsible and just focus on raising their kids the right way and not have this even be an issue. Wake up America

    • Must be nice to be perfect.

    • Not perfect just know what my priorities are and my daughter has always been number fucking one. Nothing else mattered and that’s the commitment I made when I became a father. Real easy to make excuses.

  • They also steal 30% of every 100 dollars from families when they put money in their loved ones account.