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NCJ Number: 204557 Find in a Library
Title: Families Left Behind: The Hidden Costs of Incarceration and Reentry
Author(s): Jeremy Travis; Elizabeth M. Cincotta; Amy L. Solomon
Corporate Author: The Urban Institute
United States of America
Date Published: October 2003
Page Count: 12
Sponsoring Agency: Annie E. Casey Foundation
Baltimore, MD 21202
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
The Urban Institute
Washington, DC 20037
Sale Source: The Urban Institute
2100 M Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper identifies the costs to children and families of the incarceration and re-entry of parents and suggests ways in which these harms can be reduced.
Abstract: More than half of the 1.4 million adults incarcerated in State and Federal prisons are parents of minor children. Many of these parents have had repeated exposure to the criminal justice system. Losing a parent to prison affects multiple aspects of children's lives to varying degrees. The loss can have a significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child. There has been little research to document the nature and degree of these effects. Research to date suggests that the impact of parental incarceration can have the effects on children of feelings of shame, social stigma, loss of financial support, weakened ties to the parent, changes in family composition, poor school performance, increased delinquency, and increased risk of abuse or neglect. Long-term effects can range from the questioning of parental authority, negative perceptions of police and the legal system, and increased dependency or maturational regression to impaired ability to cope with future stress or trauma, disruption of development, and intergenerational patterns of criminal behavior. Some of these harms can be reduced by structuring ways for inmates to maintain family connections during incarceration through letters and personal visits that help maintain family ties. For a family that has struggled to survive in an inmate's absence, many barriers make it difficult for family members to resume support roles when the inmate returns home. Interventions designed to help both inmates and family members prepare for and adjust to the re-entry can help facilitate positive adjustments for all concerned. Strengthening the family support network for a returning prisoner will improve his/her chances of re-entry success. Community-based organizations are well positioned to help in the re-entry process by providing assistance with housing, substance abuse treatment, health care, employment, child care, counseling, and vocational training. They can also help inmates prior to their release. Such interventions must focus on the particular problems likely to be encountered by the inmate and various family members. 32 notes and 28 suggestions for further reading
Main Term(s): Parent-Child Relations
Index Term(s): Children of incarcerated offenders; Family intervention programs; Family reunification; Family support; Post-release programs; Prerelease programs
Note: Downloaded March 10, 2004.
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