Children Sentenced to Suffer with a Parent in Jail

The United States has a dubious distinction: although the country has only about 5 percent of the world’s population, our jails and prisons house about 25 percent of the world’s inmates. Between half and two-thirds of those prisoners are parents. In fact, some 2 million American children have a parent who is incarcerated.

Those are depressing statistics. Even more dismaying is the impact of the reality behind them. Children of incarcerated parents face many hurdles. Family income decreases, parent-child bonds are weakened, distractions increase, and difficulties at school multiply. Children with jailed parents may be stigmatized by teachers or school administrators, contributing to low self-esteem. The impact on such kids is long-lasting. They are much less likely to finish college and much more likely than their peers to be involved with the criminal justice system themselves. Furthermore, evidence is building that the incarceration of parents can have a negative spill-over effect on other kids and even on entire communities.

What can be done to soften the blow of parental incarceration? Close relationships with other family members or other responsible adults can help. In addition, kids who are able to visit the jailed parents and have positive experiences during those visits seem to have a better chance at emerging from the incarceration period with fewer problems. Unfortunately, traveling to the prison can be difficult and expensive. If the parent was abusive, the child could be further harmed by the visits.

These are serious challenges, and they are not going away. Americans must find ways to solve them or risk losing a considerable segment of our youth to a cycle of failure and decline.

Image Credit: © Clinton Hussey/Corbis

Related Links


  1. Blade says:

    Honestly to me this seems pretty wrong on how the children have to suffer I may not be one of them however my views of the way people do not see things could have a chance to change this country even if I am only a teenager I could change this place for the better

    • Belen says:

      One interesting note check out the detlias of the case.The kid was 17, the entire robbery murder was premeditated weeks in advance, he tied up a woman and dropped her in a river she was still screaming.Prior to the crime, he told his friends that he’d get away with it because of his age he then told the cops that, the press, the court.

    • surpriser says:

      whew! you preach it

  2. giovanni says:

    sucks to suck


    • Auth says:

      it was a deterant?No, in many sttaes, when a child kills someone, they can only be held until they are 21. Then they have to be resentenced as an adult.If a 17 year old is not responsible for thier own actions, we can’t let them have drivers’ licenses either

      • Nguyenxuantruong says:

        In so many ways, incarceration has becmoe big business for private enterprises and there is profit to be made in supporting every more severe punishments. It astounds me that a nation claiming to be predominantly Christian finds it so easy to try and punish children as adults, when Christians and Jews alike, through their respective rituals of Confirmation and Bar/Bat Mizvahs, believe that only at around age 13 do children becmoe truly responsible for their actions and are expected to anticipate consequences. It feels as if we are reverting to the dark ages in terms of response to crime and childhood actions that once would have been deemed punishable by temporary suspension or grounding now becmoe fodder for the court system. Young people who once might have spent some time in juvenile detention now face hard time. Three strikes laws, mandatory sentencing, ever more draconian criminal charges, and we lead the civilized world in citizens imprisoned as a percentage of population. Not a standing of which to be proud!

  3. abonner says:

    dis is sad…bout 2 write a paper on it

    • surpriser says:

      yeah its pretty sad but if they didn’t write a paper then some people wouldn’t know. unless they watch the news

  4. Cori says:

    Ouch my feels

  5. Anonymous says:

    idrc is being a hippocrit.

  6. sowen says:

    idrc THAT MUS AN IN SULT TO ME!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Dobby says:

    That is so sad

  8. Directioner says:


  9. appleee sauce says:


  10. Anonymous says:

    feels bad

  11. selena says:

    i’m every sorry that you have to suffer and your childeren.

  12. Suzan says:

    I have to agree that children really do got to stand up what’s right esp. for their parents that they love-oh so much.

  13. Dania says:

    You people should really learn how to spell. This is so hilarious

  14. Alyssa says:


  15. Alyssa says:

    That’s so wrong that is such a wrong thing o my gosh

  16. Nancy says:

    It is so sad how he went to jail leaving the kids.

  17. Bella says:

    I can not believe this. Why just why!he may of done something wrong but why does this person have to suffer with a parent