Nationwide, more than 2 million children have a parent behind bars, and a growing number are mothers, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the first of a two-part series. In 2002, some 112,300 mothers with children under 18 spent time in jail or prison, double the number in 1991, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In Allegheny County, Pa., 7,000 children live with the hurt of having a parent behind bars. They live in every ZIP code, every school district. Half are white and half are black.
“It touches every community,” said Claire Walker of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, which conducted a survey of parents in the county jail. “We have a lot of prejudices about who is in jail.” Prison dads are still far more common than prison moms. But a growing number of children watch their mothers placed in handcuffs and taken away, or they come home from school to live under a cloud of shame, or relatives make up stories about mom going to the hospital or away on a trip.