Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Children with Parents Behind Bars Are Focus of Research, Discussion at Connecticut University

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Mass incarceration ripples out into every corner of society: Today, one in 15 black children, 1 in 42 Latino children, and 1 in 111 white children has a parent in prison. Although it’s well documented that children of incarcerated parents are at higher-than-average risk for being incarcerated themselves (see, for instance, this Sentencing Project report, which is also where I got the statistics above), I was still somewhat startled to read a Connecticut court official’s estimate that some 70% of juvenile detainees in the Constitution State have an incarcerated parent.

The figure comes via Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, which is in the midst of an initiative focusing on children with incarcerated parents. The institute hosted a conference last week bringing together court officials, representatives of community organizations, and residents to identify and discuss the needs of the estimated 20,000 Connecticut children who have a parent behind bars. The New Britain Herald reports:

The conference focused on goals such as making prison visits more inviting and less intimidating for children.

Transportation can also be a problem with no bus lines leading directly to state prisons, which can mean that some children will not see their parent for their entire sentence.

The results can be traumatic, said Lauren Pedersen, a clinician at the Klingberg Family Centers.

“So many kids we see have long periods without seeing a parent and it results in behavioral problems,” said Pedersen, who estimated that 20 to 25 percent of the children’s cases she handles have parents who are incarcerated. “There’s a lot of shame involved in having a parent incarcerated.”

Another factor that [Connecticut court official and CCSU adjunct professor Trevor] Johnson stressed is the lack of coordination between child-service agencies that can lead to a lack of understanding of why the child is having problems at home and at school.

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