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The Outside:



A Collaboration between UNIS Human Rights Project & Proof: Media for Social Justice

Photo Credit: Shaun Mader | SHAUNMADERSTUDIO.COM for Children of Promise

More families and children in the U.S. are impacted by incarceration than ever before. The problem is so widespread that “Sesame Street,” a popular children’s television program, introduced a new muppet whose father is in prison.

Nationwide, 2.7 million children, 1 out of every 28, has a parent behind bars. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately impacted. 11.4% of Black children and 3.5% of Hispanic children have an incarcerated parent, compared to 1.8% of White children.

There are currently 1.5 million incarcerated fathers and 120,000 mothers of minors in US prisons. 40% of incarcerated mothers report being the only parent in the household, and the majority of incarcerated parents are detained in prisons located more than one hundred miles away from their families.

When a mother, father, son or daughter goes to prison, families suffer the loss of income and childcare, as well as the added burden of legal expenses. Maintaining connections is a challenge, as family members are often incarcerated far away and costs for prisons calls can be several times higher than non-prison calls.

The impacts on children are devastating. Parental incarceration is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” since children of incarcerated parents are more likely to suffer from trauma, anxiety and depression, as well as stigma and shame.

Test your knowledge.

Chapter 12 — Question 01

Nationwide, 1 out of every ____ children has a parent behind bars.

Correct! Wrong!

1 out of 28 children has a parent behind bards in the U.S.

Chapter 12 — Question 01


Impacted by incarceration in his family

My mother was incarcerated when I was 23. At that time, I also had two siblings who were 4 and 6 years old, very young. My mother was the head of the house. She was the one who took care of the family, paid the bills and all that stuff. I was a college student. The kids were going to school as well and so you can only imagine that when the breadwinner is taken out of the equation, there is no bread. If your mother is in prison, your father is in prison, your cousin, your brother, you feel that guilt. People look at you like you are from the same blood and assume you will end up doing the same things. Kids will make fun of you without knowing what they are laughing at. You are bullied for something that has nothing to do with you as an individual.

Continue to

Chapter Thirteen