Those that were Left Behind: Children of Incarcerated Parents
The U.S. incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any other industrialized nation. On any given day, almost two million children in the U.S. have at least one parent in prison. The impact of incarceration affects every aspect of the children's world. Emotionally they are traumatized. Physically they are affected by economic and geographic changes. The spill over of incarceration affects the children's school performance, behavior, peer relationships, sense of time, sense of self, and feelings about the future. Without intervention children are highly likely to replicate their parents' histories. In the U.S. children of incarcerated fathers are five times more likely than other children to eventually become incarcerated themselves. Social workers, counselors, and psychologists need to address the children's feelings about their parents, understand the impact on the children's worlds,
sensitize the parents to their children's trauma, and ultimately break the cycle of incarceration. Social advocates need to affect criminal justice policies that damage the children - the innocent victims of incarceration.
Keywords: Incarceration, Prisons, Children of Incarcerated Parents, Criminal Justice Policy
Dr. Carl Mazza
Professor, Department of Social Work & Sociology, Lehman College of the City University of New York
At Lehman College I teach social work practice, social policy, and field work practice.