Think Outside the Cage: life sentence for children of prisoners


suffer the little childrenoriginally published: 24th April 2009

There are some children who matter so little that no government agency bothers to count or keep statistical track of them. These are the children of prisoners.

Neither the courts nor the corrections departments are interested in the kids who are suffering under their offending parent’s sentence. What on earth does “corrections” mean if it doesn’t involve improving inmates’ behavior and prospects for life when they are back with their families and communities? Actually, “corrections” is oxymoronic.

National organizations ask prisoners about their children. There is some data, but it’s hard to verify. Researchers believe that at any given time, roughly 1.5 million kids in the country have a parent in prison or jail. About 10 million children now under 18 have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives.

Having a parent imprisoned clearly indicates domestic chaos and disruption. Children of inmates are statistically very likely to go to prison themselves. It’s a wonder the justice system isn’t a little more interested in them.

In her book of essays “Children of Incarcerated Parents” researcher Denise Johnson says that a parent’s arrest and incarceration are so traumatic that they can “interfere with the ability of children to successfully master developmental tasks” meaning that their ability to learn becomes delayed. And these children have to overcome “the effects of enduring trauma, parent-child separation and an inadequate quality of care. The combination of these effects produces serious long-term outcomes, including intergenerational incarceration.”

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One Response to “Think Outside the Cage: life sentence for children of prisoners”

  1. 1 Ben Smithsen

    The tragic consequences of prison politics….

    Our society seems to have lost sight of the true rights and wrongs.
    Yes, people should pay for their wrong doings but this should never be disproportionate to the effects on their loved ones, and children in particular.


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