How policies can respond to parental incarceration

  • Preventing and reducing incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels
  • Reducing the developmental burden of parental incarceration
  • An example at the federal level is the First Step Act, which requires the Bureau of the Prisons to house individuals incarcerated in federal facilities as close to their homes as possible
  • Examples at the state level: the map on the next slide shows which states have proposed or passed legislation to help with family separation because of incarceration
  • An example at the local level is NY’s City’s Council passing legislation requiring the use of child-sensitive protocols during parental arrest
  • Supporting reentry assistance programs at the federal, state, and local levels

Mihalec-Adkins, B.P., Shlafer, R. (2022). The role of policy in shaping and addressing the consequences of parental incarceration for child development in the United States. Social Policy Report, Society for Research in Child Development

Laws that can mitigate parent-child separation for justice-involved families

  • Caregiver mitigation and diversion laws
    • Creating diversion programs that parents of children can complete instead of going to prison to serve their sentences or
    • Authorizing judges to sentence a person to diversion programs instead of prison if the person is the primary caregiver of a child
  • Proximity Laws
    • Incarcerated parents are placed at facilities that are closest to their children

How to create affirming spaces for children with justice-involved parents

The New York Initiative for Children with Incarcerated Parents has created guidelines for supporting children with justice-involved parents:

Course Syllabus

Not Enrolled
Scope of the Issue
Does the US really incarcerate more people than any other country in the world?
How has the number of people incarcerated in the US changed over time?
Key terms
How many people are arrested each year in the US?
Why are there such stark racial and economic inequities in incarceration in the US?
What role do jails play in mass incarceration?
How many people are on probation or parole?
How many women are incarcerated in the US?
Section 1 Quiz
Intersecting Vulnerabilities
What proportion of people who are incarcerated have health and mental health concerns?
What proportion of people who are incarcerated have substance use disorders?
Co-occurence of mental health and substance use disorders in people who were arrested
How are biomedical scientists re-envisioning how the justice system responds to the opioid crisis?
Pregnant women and substance use disorder
Nora’s blog: Pregnant people with substance use disorders need treatment, not criminalization
Section 2 Quiz
"We Are Just Kids"
How many parents are incarcerated in the US?
How many children have a parent incarcerated in jail or prison in the US?
Where do children live during parental incarceration?
Parental incarceration as an adverse childhood experience
What child outcomes are associated with parental incarceration?
Is parental incarceration ever helpful for children?
Does parental incarceration affect children differently depending on the child’s age at the time of the experience?
What is associated with increased stress for children with incarcerated parents?
A parent’s arrest, even if it does not lead to incarceration, can also be challenging for children
Racial Inequities in Arrests
Stressors associated with parental justice system involvement
Stressors and recidivism
Resilience processes for children are more likely when ...
From Stigma to Support
Studies on stigma and incarceration
The language that we use
Can you change your thinking?
Sesame Street in Communities
Listening to youth voices
What can HBCD teams do to support justice-involved families in research?
How policies can respond to parental incarceration
Further reading
Section 4 Quiz
Closing video