Wednesday, 16 February 2011


When a loved one is sentenced to prison, the emotional turmoil is difficult for everyone to handle. Perhaps the heaviest burden is felt by those who are unintentional victims of crime - children of incarcerated parents.

Nationally, 7.3 million children have at least one parent in jail or prison. Sadly, 70 percent of these kids are doomed to follow in the same footsteps as their parents becoming imprisoned at some point in their lives. In fact, children of incarcerated parents are five times more likely than their peers to commit crimes. However, these at-risk children are largely ignored before they get in trouble.

More troubling for African Americans are the telling statistics. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, of the 156,235 prisoners in the state of Texas, 57, 857 are Black - the highest of any other ethnicity. Women constitute 12,445 of the total prison population - an increase of 428 from 2007 when 12,0 17 females were behind bars.

So what becomes of these children whose mother and/or fathers are locked up? Often, they are left to fend for themselves emotionally and the stress of child-rearing falls on a grandmother, usually, or another surrogate parent or the children may end up in protective services. These hardships manifest in the children in mental health issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of abandonment, said psychotherapist Dr. Janice Beal. Also, children go through a grieving process. In an effort to curb the cycle of imprisonment and address an overlooked population of at-risk children, more organizations and people are advocating for children with parents in prison.

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