When Parents Are Imprisoned, Children Suffer

December 4th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman

Lexington Criminal Defense Lawyer

There are many reasons to fight a Central Kentucky criminal conviction. Personal liberty may come to mind first; but if the person arrested is a parent, that conviction can have a long lasting impact on his or her family and children. The Center for American Progress (CAP) states that filling up prisons not only does no good for the incarcerated but also harms children.

The United States has become the world leader in incarceration and arrests.

  • The number of federal and state prisons and jails is five times higher than it was 40 years ago.
  • Nearly 2.3 million Americans live in prisons and jails.
  • Our incarceration rate is more than six times the average for developed nations.
  • Communities of color, particularly men, are hit the hardest. Black men are six times more likely and Latino men two-and-a-half times more likely to be jailed than white men.
  • From 70 to 100 million Americans, or one in three American adults, have some kind of criminal record.
  • Many of these convictions are for minor offenses, including misdemeanors, and many have been arrested but never a convicted.

A criminal record can cause a lifetime of consequences, long after one has been arrested or left prison.

  • A minor criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty, make employment difficult, housing harder to find, education out of reach and limit training, public assistance and financial well-being.
  • A child’s future life is rooted in his or her circumstances. These barriers impact stability and economic security in the short term and may damage a child’s long-term well-being and outcomes.

CAP estimates that between 33 million and 36.5 million children in the U.S., or nearly half of the children in the country, have at least one parent with a criminal record. Parental criminal records significantly worsen the many challenges low income parents and their families face. The intergenerational effects of criminal records include:

  • Income: Parents with criminal records have lower earning potential because it’s more difficult to obtain a job and receive public assistance. About 87% of employers check job candidates for criminal records.
  • Savings and assets: Costs and debts related to an arrest and conviction, along with child support arrears, can severely limit a family’s ability to save money and can result in a cycle of debt. The average estimated lifetime earning loss for a formerly incarcerated man is $179,000.
  • Education: Parents with criminal records have a harder time obtaining education and training that could improve their chances of finding well-paying jobs, better enabling them to support their families. Two-thirds of colleges use criminal background checks as part of the admissions process.
  • Housing: Inability to obtain public or private housing leads to housing instability and makes family reunification difficult, if not impossible. About 20% of families with formerly incarcerated members returning home are denied housing or can’t qualify for public housing.

CAP warns that since these problems impact such a large percentage of the country’s children, we will ignore these family consequences at our peril.

If you have been arrested in Central Kentucky or are being investigated for a possible criminal charge, call our office at (859) 685-1055 or use this online contact form so we can start the conversation about your situation, applicable criminal laws and the best ways to protect your liberty, legal rights and your family’s future.