Unraveling The State of Children of Incarcerated Family Members
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, it was estimated that about 2,298,300 individuals were incarcerated out of the entire United States population around the end of 2016. Imprisoning people does not mean that they are the only ones dealing with their consequences- the effect spreads much further, reaching their families and scaring them in ways that cannot be healed.
The 2010 Pew Charitable Trust report states that approximately 2.7 million children in the US have one or both of their parents shackled behind bars. These hidden victims with incarcerated family members have to face countless struggles throughout their lives- emotionally, physically, and economically.
When the father figure is the one that is incarcerated, the families that they leave behind often have to struggle financially as the income gets substantially thinned out-, which increases the rates of families becoming homeless. And when a mother is incarcerated, her children would usually be sent off to foster care, breaking the family apart by force.
Furthermore, after these incarcerated members have served their time and enter back into society, their criminal record makes it extremely difficult for them to get a job anywhere, resulting in no improvement in the families' situation.
A constant stream of instabilities leads to emotional strain on children, causing them to develop harmful tendencies to cope with their family situation.
Some of the early behaviors of children with incarcerated family members include becoming highly depressed, showing aggressive habits, drug abuse, and even getting suspended from school. Among all of the above factors, one of the most common traits found in these children was being anti-social.
Many studies from the National Institute of Justice have researched children's behavior with incarcerated parents. The conclusions reached were that a series of multiple hardships in a child's life could lead to severe depression, which in turn develops distressing coping mechanisms such as self-harm, substance abuse, and ultimately suicide attempts that last throughout adulthood.
Many have stressed the concern of criminal behavior being hereditary. In fact, according to the statistics displayed by the National Institute of Justice, children with incarcerated parents are 6 times more likely going to be incarcerated themselves- and if the incarcerated person in question is the mother rather than the father, the chances of the child ending up like her were even higher.
Is There Any Hope Left for the Children?
The growing numbers of incarcerated individuals have alerted many individuals to stand against this injustice- a prime example being Pamela Winn. An innovative visionary of Women's Rights and political activist, Pamela Winn has used her fierce determination to bring about a change in the conditions of incarcerated women. One of her biggest achievements includes leading the campaign, #DIGNITY for Incarcerated Women GA, where the HB345 bill was passed, putting an end to the shackles and solitary confinement of incarcerated pregnant women in GA.
Pamela Winn is a national leader in anti-shackling legislation. Her relentless drive to improve incarcerated mothers' circumstances has bought about a growing hope for their families to believe in a brighter future for the younger generation.