Children with Incarcerated Parents

Juvenile Justice And The effects on Children of Incarcerated Parents Loretta R. Lynch Capstone 480 Ms. Mel Jones Abstract Today prisons are overcrowded and over two million Americans, male, and female are sitting in jail or prison, and two thirds of those people incarcerated are parents (U. S. Department of Justice). Approximately two million of these children are separated from their mom or dad because of incarceration of which these are the custodial parent.
These children suffer from poverty, inconsistency in caregivers, separation from siblings, reduced education, increased risk for substance abuse, alcoholism and incarceration themselves. Studies have shown that children who lack parental relationships that combine loving support with structured discipline will show increased signs of antisocial behavior (Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(4). This behavior is exhibited in children with incarcerated parents because bonds are likely to have never formed or are broken upon imprisonment.
The attachment a child has to their parent, as well as the indirect controls a parent has over the child, forms protective factors that reduce the incidence of delinquency (Abidin, R. 1983). Children of incarcerated parents are not always afforded protective factors, and are exposed to higher levels of risk factors that can contribute to delinquent behavior. Parental incarceration increases a child’s chance of experiencing disruptions, ineffective parenting, and loss of parental contact and academic difficulties, which can lead to juvenile delinquency.

In the last three decades, family life in the United States has changed dramatically. Currently over eight point five million families with children under eighteen years of age are maintained by single parents, eighty percent of which are single as a result of separation or divorce (Hamner & Turner, 1990). A significant contributing factor to single parent households is the estimated eight percent of the children in the United States who have one parent who is incarcerated (Butterworth, 1987).
In my interview with one family court judge at the Chesterfield County Juvenile Justice Court (Brice, 2012), it was apparent to me that these children are more likely than their peers to become incarcerated as adults (. The parent-child relationship, which is extremely important in a child’s development when broken, can have strong implications on the behavior that has exhibited from the child. It was also apparent that according to statistics nationwide, more than 2 million children have a parent who is incarcerated in state or federal prison (U. S. Department of Justice Report 2009).
Loosing a parent to incarceration can have a wide range of devastating effects on prisoner’s children. In an interview with a female inmate (Inmate X, 2012), a mother of three children, it was apparent that the lack of parental bonding had affected not only the relationship with her mother who was seventy-one and in bad health, but also with her children. On top of her worry of being incarcerated, the inmate had just learned that her oldest was beginning to show signs of acting out and smoking marijuana. She spoke to me about her children ranging from ages two, seven and twelve.
This female inmate discusses how much she missed and loved them her children, but due to circumstances, she would not be able to be in their lives for five years. She stated that it was her decision for her mother not to bring the children to the facility for any visits for fear of the impact it might cause on them seeing her in a place behind bars. When I asked her what made her in up in prison, she stated drugs. As a child, she was raped by her step-grandfather and she had turned to drugs to cope. In another interview with a female inmate (Inmate Y, 2012), she shared how he was raised in a single parent household. Her father was in and out jail for various crimes until 1996 when charged with Involuntary Manslaughter during the commission of a robbery when she was approximately twelve. It was toward the end of the interview that I learned she is one of five children in a family of two girls and three boys. The saddening fact was that in this family of five, three of her siblings were incarcerated for various crimes. Forty-two percent of men and woman today had a parent who was also incarcerated (U. S. Department of Statistics 2009).
We know much more about incarcerated mothers than we know about incarcerated fathers. For example, over 70% of female inmates are mothers of dependent children under the age of eighteen. Almost 90% of incarcerated females are single parents and heads of households. According to some estimates, a quarter of a million children are separated from their parents each year by jail and prison (Glick & Neto, 1977; McGowan & Blumenthal, 1978; McPeek & Tse, 1988; U. S. Department of Justice, 1992). We do not have this kind of information about incarcerated fathers.
The lack of statistics concerning fathers in prison may suggest that they are a forgotten group. Research has revealed that a father’s involvement in his child’s life greatly improves the child’s chances for success. Helping incarcerated fathers foster stronger connections with their children (where appropriate) can have a positive effect for children. What is needed is stronger training of social workers and prison personnel to help males with bonding and effective parenting skills. Prisons also need to work on reorganizing visiting spaces in prisons because they are not always child friendly.
This also makes it extremely hard for families. According to a report written by Sarah Schirmer, Ashley Nellis, and Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project, “The increasing incarceration of women means that more mothers are being incarcerated than ever before. There is some evidence that maternal incarceration can be more damaging to a child than paternal incarceration, which results in more children now suffering negative consequences”. First, fewer correctional institutions for women means that mothers are often located far away from the homes of their children.
Second, children of female offenders are more than twice more likely to be placed in foster care than are children of male offenders because children of incarcerated fathers typically remain with the mother. Incarceration can add a tremendous burden to the already stressful situation of not having contact with the family. Many inmates are placed not in the same vicinity as their families, and many families cannot afford to relocate close to a prison, in order for the incarcerated parent to stay involved with the family. Thus, there is limited interaction between parent and child.
This is especially hard for female inmates whose prisons are usually not in the same state in which they live. The average frequency of visits, according to some accounts, is at the most once a month, maybe less. The only time inmates get to interact with their children is when someone chooses to bring the children to the institution. Even when children visit, it is common for the incarcerated parent to lose a sense of closeness with them since most of the children who visit their parents are unable to touch them. Nearly half of them grew up in families that received welfare, and had a substance-abusing parent.
Family poverty, alcoholism and crime set up a subsequent cycle of generational recidivism. In my interview and time working in a boys group home seems as though the effects of their separation from an incarcerated parents was significant and played a major role in why they were now themselves locked up. They spoke of feelings of abandoned, while at the same time feeling a sense of freedom to do whatever they choose to do. This is extremely sad working with them because they are not bad kids they have just been thrown into bad situations and most of them are just looking for someone to show them affection and attention.
In my interview with a fourteen year old (boy A, 2012) raise by his paternal grandmother said that she was an older woman of eighty and could not discipline him; instead, she spoiled him and gave him everything he wanted. Another juvenile, age eleven (boy B) was raised by his mother’s sister who gave him little or no attention because she had 4 children of her own; and before he knew it he was stealing cars and getting into trouble for attention My last interview with a juvenile aged sixteen (boy C, 2013) was the saddest because he was raised by his brother and sister in law.
The twist of the story was that his sister-in-law was molesting him and so in turn, he started molesting younger girls in his family. Statistics have shown that these boys were four times more likely to become involved in criminal activities than children from the same social economic background were with parents at home. The pattern continues as they enter their adult life, where research clearly indicates that children who had an incarcerated parent are at high risk for incarceration as a juvenile or adult (Burchinal, L. , Hawkes, G. , & Gardner, B. 957). The statistics that I have learned while doing my research is horrifying. These young children are critical to our society and they are our future generation of potential lawyers and doctors. The question has always been how do we address this problem? I do not think there is any easy answer to this dilemma, but we must try to find a solution because our children are suffering. Some are suffering in silence and some are suffering aloud. Whatever way they are suffering, they are crying for attention and we must listen and hear their cries.
The crimes that these people commit not only effect society, but on their children as well. My thoughts are, the sooner they realize the effects they are having on their children, the sooner we might be able to find a solution to juvenile crime, and delinquency and save our children. Figure 1. A transactional model of the predictors of children’s adjustment following parental incarceration and reunion after (Conger & Elder, 1994; Hetherington et al. , 1998). References Adalist-Estrin, A. (1986). Parenting from behind bars. Family Resource Coalition – FRC Report, 1, 12-13.
Abidin, R. (1983). Parenting stress index. Charlottesville, VA: Pediatric Psychology Press. Burchinal, L. , Hawkes, G. , & Gardner, B. (1957). The relationship between parental acceptance and adjustment of children. Child Development, 28, 67-77. Inmate X. (2012, December). Interview by L Lynch [Personal Interview] housed at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women Inmate Y, (2013, December). Interview by L Lynch [Personal Interview] housed at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women Boy A. (2012, December). Interview by L Lynch [Personal Interview]. Boy B. 2012, December). Interview by L Lynch [Personal Interview]. Boy C. (2013, December). Interview by L Lynch [Personal Interview]. Brice, L. (2012, December 14). Interview by L Lynch [Personal Interview]. Juvenile justice system. http://www. fcnetwork. org/AECFChildren%20of%20Incarcerated%20Parents%20Factsheet. pdf La Vigne, N. G. , Naser, R. L. Brooks, L. E. & Castro, J. L. (2005). Examining the effect of incarceration and in-prison family contact on prisoners’ family relationships. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(4). ———————– [pic]

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