More than 1.7 million American children have an incarcerated parent, says California Watch, citing a new report by Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research group. As the United States' prison population has surged, so too have the number of incarcerated mothers and fathers. “In particular, the number of incarcerated women, who are most likely to have been the primary caretakers of children prior to their incarceration, has skyrocketed by more than 400 percent since 1986,” the report states.
Justice Strategies' overarching recommendation is simply to incarcerate fewer convicted felons. The consequences for children of inmates in our current system are legion: financial instability, compromised educational success, social stigma, and increased risk of drug abuse and criminal activity. These impacts are not felt equally across racial groups, the report states. The estimated risk of parental imprisonment for white children by the age of 14 is one in 25, while for black children it is one in four by the same age.