Another Fault of the Criminal Justice System: ACUF and Others Ask Sentencing Commission to Research Impact of Parental Incarceration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF), in partnership with four other organizations dedicated to criminal justice reform, issued a joint, bipartisan request for the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) to undertake research assessing how a parent’s incarceration affects minor children.

Half of all incarcerated individuals have minor dependents, meaning that over 2 million children in the U.S. are directly affected. This group of children has shown statistically significant rates of mental health, testing, and behavioral challenges than their control group counterparts. Additionally, studies have shown that children who merely attend school with other kids of incarcerated parents can be negatively affected as well.

Pat Nolan, the Director of ACUF’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform noted: “The loss of a parent to incarceration has negative consequences for minor children. Unfortunately, these impacts are viral, infecting other families, schools, and communities.”

Researchers J. Scott Moody and Dr. Wendy Warcholik, who developed the Family Prosperity Index, noted: “[T]he negative economic and social consequences of incarceration are intergenerational…Incarceration of one member of the family, by definition, leaves the other member a single parent.”

Ultimately, there is an increased risk of poverty and crime, adverse neighborhood conditions, and exposure to violence in communities with significant rates of parental incarceration.

ACUF’s Nolan explained: “Documenting this dynamic will allow policy makers to improve public safety by breaking a sad and vicious cycle.”

With this information in mind, the ACUF, Justice Strategies, # Cut 50, the Right on Crime Coalition, and the R Street Institute are urging the USSC to conduct a research project to provide an even clearer understanding of how the incarceration of a parent impacts dependent children.

This is but one of the systemic and negative issues associated with America’s criminal justice system The United States has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of it’s prisoners. Overcriminalization and unnecessarily long prison sentences cost the national economy $1 trillion each year.

The full comment submitted to the USSC can be found here.

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Contact: David Safavian