More than 2.7 million children in the United States—most under 10 years old—have a parent in jail or prison. A staggering one in nine African American kids has a parent in lock up. For Latino children, it’s one in 28, and for White children, it’s one in 57.
Across the nation, approximately ten million children have experienced parental incarceration and nearly half of America’s kids today have at least one parent with a criminal record. For millions of parents, criminal records will stymie safe and affordable housing, employment, and countless opportunities to participate in their children’s lives—from tucking them in at night to coaching the summer team to joining them at school for lunch. Children meanwhile may undergo the traumas of loss, powerlessness, and instability on top of an increased risk of poverty and the suffocating stigma and shame that comes with having a parent taken away and then not allowed back in.
And while there are millions of children with parents who have been incarcerated, there are millions more whose brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents have been imprisoned. Each loss can have a profoundly negative effect on child and adult alike—one that reverberates for decades to come.