The justice system's impact on families.

  • Every Second: The Impact of the Incarceration Crisis on America's Families FWD.us, December, 2018“Every second adult in America has had an immediate family member incarcerated.”
  • Because She's Powerful: The Political Isolation and Resistance of Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones. ESSIE Justice Group, May, 2018(Mass incarceration is a direct cause of significant to extreme psychological distress and trauma, and a serious obstacle to the financial health and economic agency of women with incarcerated loved ones.)
  • The Detention and Forced Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women: A Human Rights Perspective American Constitution Society, March, 2018(This report argues that laws authorizing the detention and forced medical treatment of pregnant women suspected of drug or alcohol abuse violate human rights standards and are a mistaken legal response to address individual and public health issues.)
  • Keeping Kids and Parents Together: A Healthier Approach to Sentencing in Louisiana Human Impact Partners, March, 2018“In this report, we evaluate the health and equity impacts of Primary Caretaker legislation in the state of Louisiana. If passed, this legislation would expand the ability to set community-based sentences for parents.”
  • Keeping Kids and Parents Together A Healthier Approach to Sentencing in Tennessee Human Impact Partner & Free Hearts, February, 2018“This report finds that House Bill 825 and Senate Bill 919 would have a positive health impact on children, parents, and communities, especially those that are the hardest hit by incarceration.”
  • Keeping Kids and Parents Together: A Healthier Approach to Sentencing in Massachusetts Human Impact Partners, September, 2017“Increasing judges’ discretion to authorize alternatives to incarceration that include treatment instead of prison or jail where appropriate can keep families intact.”
  • Hidden Consequences: The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Dependent Children National Institute of Justice, May, 2017“It is critical that correctional practitioners develop strong partnerships with law enforcement, public schools, and child welfare agencies to understand the unique dynamics of the family in question and try to ensure a safety net for the child”
  • Hidden Consequences: The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Dependent Children National Institute of Justice, May, 2017“This article summarizes the range of risk factors facing children of incarcerated parents. It also cautions against universal policy solutions that seek to address these risk factors but do not take into account the child’s unique needs.”
  • Final Implementation Findings from the Responsible Fatherhood Reentry Projects Urban Institute, April, 2017“Fathers recently released from correctional institutions have significant service needs and can face considerable barriers to meeting those needs as they reintegrate back to their communities.”
  • Gender and Trauma, Somatic Interventions for Girls in Juvenile Justice: Implications for Policy and Practice Rebecca Epstein and Thalia González, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, April, 2017“Trauma-informed, gender-responsive, and culturally competent somatic interventions can serve as a critical component of physical and mental health approaches for system-involved girls.”
  • Bullies in Blue: Origins and Consequences of School Policing American Civil Liberties Union, April, 2017“[A]t at its origins, school policing enforced social control over Black and Latino youth who could no longer be kept out of neighborhoods and schools through explicitly discriminatory laws.”
  • Parent-Child Visiting Practices in Prisons and Jails A Synthesis of Research and Practice Urban Institute, April, 2017“This paper presents key findings on what is known about the design, implementation, and effectiveness of parent-child visits.”
  • "She Doesn't Deserve to be Treated Like This": Prisons as Sites of Reproductive Injustice Rachel Roth, The Feminist Press, 2017 (updated), January, 2017“This essay explores prisons as sites of reproductive injustice by focusing on barriers to abortion and safe childbirth.”
  • Helping Moms, Dads, & Kids To Come Home: Eliminating Barriers to Housing for People with Criminal Records Legal Action Center, December, 2016“America’s “revolving-door” approach to mass incarceration is inextricably linked to the problem of homelessness.”
  • Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons The National Collaboration for Youth, December, 2016“The youth prison is the signature feature of nearly every state juvenile justice system even though it is harmful, ineffective and expensive.”
  • Coming Home: An Evaluation of the New York City Housing Authority's Family Reentry Pilot Program Vera Institute of Justice, November, 2016“The study revealed that participants reuniting with their families both received support and supported others as they took on familial roles, especially as caregivers for elderly parents.”
  • A Wealth of Inequalities: Mass Incarceration, Employment, and Racial Disparities in U.S. Household Wealth, 1996 to 2011 Bryan L. Sykes, University of Washington and Michelle Maroto, University of Alberta, October, 2016“[A] non-Hispanic white household with an institutionalized member would actually hold more in assets than an otherwise similar black or Hispanic household without an institutionalized member.”
  • Responsible Prison Project: Reshaping The Texas Prison System for Greater Public Safety Aaron Flaherty, David Graham, Michael Smith, William D Jones, and Vondre Cash, October, 2016“It has often been said that those who are closest to a problem are closest to its solution. That is no less true for those who are in prison.”
  • The Economic Burden of Incarceration in the U.S. Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation, October, 2016“This study estimates the annual economic burden of incarceration in the United States [by including] important social costs...an aggregate burden of one trillion dollars.”
  • Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform Vera Institute of Justice, August, 2016“At this critical moment in jail and local justice system reform, Vera has taken stock of the existing research on women in jail to begin to reframe the conversation to include them.”
  • Raising Cain: The Role of Serious Mental Illness in Family Homicides Treatment Advocacy Center, June, 2016“[T]his is the first study of the role of serious mental illness in all family homicides.”
  • It Take a Village: Diversion for Police and Families Vera Institute of Justice, June, 2016“This brief explores the creative, collaborative, and community-focused work being done in Nevada, Connecticut, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon to find productive responses to youth “acting out.””
  • Mothers at the Gate: How a Powerful Family Movement is Transforming the Juvenile Justice System Institute for Policy Studies, May, 2016“[A] movement of family members — particularly mothers — is developing around the country, a movement that aims to challenge both the conditions in which their loved ones are held and the fact of mass incarceration itself.”
  • Protecting Written Family Communication in Jails: A 50-State Survey Prison Policy Initiative, May, 2016“[W]e find a strong correlation between the states that have strong language protecting letter writing and the states in which no jails are experimenting with banning letters.”
  • Get To Work or Go To Jail: Workplace Rights Under Threat UCLA Labor Center, April, 2016“The work-or-jail threat adds the weight of the criminal justice system to employers’ power, and turns the lack of good jobs into the basis for further policing, prosecution, and incarceration.”
  • A Shared Sentence: the devastating toll of parental incarceration on kids, families and communities The Annie E. Casey Foundation, April, 2016“Nationally, the number of kids who have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their childhood hovers around 5.1 million - a conservative estimate.”
  • Pretrial Incarcerated Women: An Analysis of Women in Bristol County Jail, Massachusetts Wellesley Centers for Women, March, 2016“This brief policy report examines these women’s demographic and criminal justice characteristics and, focusing particularly on their race and ethnicity, examines the relationships between them.”
  • Multi-Site Family Study on Incarceration, Parenting, and Partnering Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March, 2016“Fathers with younger children rated their parental warmth and their relationship quality with their children more highly than did fathers of older children, and they also engaged in more activities with their children.”
  • Children, Parents, and Incarceration: Descriptive Overview of Data from Alameda and San Francisco County Jails Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership; San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, March, 2016“The survey was structured to gather information to inform program and policy decisions in consideration of the children’s well-being when their parents become incarcerated in local jails.”
  • A New Role for Technology? Implementing Video Visitation in Prison Vera Institute of Justice, February, 2016“This report examines the current landscape of video visitation in prisons nationwide and offers a detailed case study of an early adopter, Washington State.”
  • Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children Center for American Progress, December, 2015“Our new analysis estimates that between 33 million and 36.5 million children in the United States--nearly half of U.S. children--now have at least one parent with a criminal record.”
  • Separation by Bars and Miles: Visitation in state prisons Prison Policy Initiative, October, 2015“Less than a third of people in state prisons receive a visit from a loved one in a typical month.”
  • Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children? Child Trends, October, 2015“Children do not often figure in discussions of incarceration, but new research finds more than five million U.S. children have had at least one parent in prison at one time or another.”
  • Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Forward Together; Research Action Design, September, 2015“Forty-eight percent of families in our survey overall were unable to afford the costs associated with a conviction, while among poor families (making less than $15,000 per year), 58% were unable to afford these costs.”
  • Evaluation of the Los Angeles Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program: Year 4 Evaluation Report Urban Institute, September, 2015“The analyses presented in this report address GRYD’s efforts to impact gang violence at the individual, family, and community levels, paralleling the GRYD program components targeting each of these levels.”
  • Debtors' Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System Juvenile Law Center, August, 2015“Youth who can’t pay for alternative programs may enter the juvenile justice system when a wealthier peer would not.”
  • A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Drug Offenses Human Rights Watch, June, 2015“[T]he US is deporting a significant number of both permanent residents and undocumented individuals with strong family and community ties to the US, often for minor or old drug offenses.”
  • Racial Inequalities in Connectedness to Imprisoned Individuals in the United States Du Bois Review, May, 2015“We show that 44% of Black women (and 32% of Black men) but only 12% of White women (and 6% of White men) have a family member imprisoned.”
  • Seven Out of Ten? Not Even Close. Central Connecticut State University, March, 2015(On average children with incarcerated parents were about three times as likely as non-children with incarcerated parents to become justice-involved, not nearly six times more likely.)
  • When All Else Fails, Fining the Family: First Person Accounts of Criminal Justice Debt Center for Community Alternatives, January, 2015“Debt is paid not only by those convicted of crimes, but also by their families (or friends) who are the last stop before re-incarceration.”
  • Detrimental for Some? Heterogeneous Effects of Maternal Incarceration on Child Wellbeing Criminology & Public Policy, January, 2015“Maternal incarceration is deleterious for children of mothers least likely to experience incarceration but mostly inconsequential for children of mothers more likely to experience incarceration.”
  • Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails Prison Policy Initiative, January, 2015(In order to stimulate demand for their low-quality product, jails and video visitation companies work together to shut down the traditional in-person visitation rooms and instead require families to pay up to $1.50 per minute for visits via video.)
  • Video Visiting in Corrections: Benefits, Limitations, and Implementation Considerations National Institute of Corrections, December, 2014“Video visiting can be a positive enhancement to in-person visiting when implemented in a way that balances the goals of the facility and the needs of incarcerated individuals and their families.”
  • Video Visitation: How Private Companies Push for Visits by Video and Families Pay the Price Grassroots Leadership; Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, October, 2014“Video-only visitation policies strip away that choice; they are simply another outgrowth of the idea that offering services to prisoners and their families can be commercialized.”
  • Study of the TDCJ Offender Visitation Policies Texas Department of Criminal Justice, August, 2014“A temporary online survey was conducted from November 2013 to March 2014 to obtain feedback from the public regarding their past visitation experience.”
  • Reentering Women: The Impact of Social Ties on Long-Term Recidivism Kelle Barrick, Pamela K. Lattimore, and Christy A. Visher, July, 2014“Results from this study suggest that in-prison family contact and post-release family support are protective whereas in-prison non-family contact is a risk factor.”
  • The Double Edged Sword of Prison Video Visitation Claiming to Keep Families Together While Furthering the Aims of the Prison Industrial Complex Patrice A. Fulcher, Associate Professor at John Marshall Law School, July, 2014“The use of inmate video visitation services must not be oppressive, so fees must be affordable and transparent so that there are no hidden costs.”(published in 9 Fla. A&M. U. L. Rev. 83 (2014))
  • Stakeholders' Views on the Movement to Reduce Youth Incarceration National Council on Crime and Delinquency, April, 2014“From June 2012 through June 2013, NCCD asked juvenile justice stakeholders to describe how youth incarceration was reduced in their jurisdictions.”
  • Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty State Survey Chesa Boudin, Trevor Stutz, & Aaron Littman, February, 2014“This paper presents a summary of the findings from the first fifty-state survey of prison visitation policies.”
  • Neither here nor there: Incarceration and family instability Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine, January, 2014“[F]indings suggest that, regardless of level of relationship commitment, maintaining relationships while one partner is behind bars is difficult.”
  • Redefining Relationships: Explaining the Countervailing Consequences of Paternal Incarceration for Parenting Turney, Kristen, January, 2014“In this paper, we consider the countervailing consequences of paternal incarceration for a host of family relationships, including fathers' parenting, mothers' parenting, and the relationship between parents.”
  • Family Unity, Family Health: An Inquiry on Federal Immigration Policy (Case Story) Human Impact Partners, June, 2013“If deportations continue at 2012 levels, tens of thousands of U.S.-citizen children will suffer from poorer health, more behavioral problems, diminished educational achievement, increased poverty, and food insufficiency that may lead to hunger.”
  • Children with Incarcerated Parents - Considering Children's Outcomes in the Context of Family Experiences University of Minnesota, June, 2013“Given the potential long-term consequences of parental incarceration for child and adult health, targeted, evidence-informed prevention and intervention efforts are sorely needed.”
  • Incarceration of a Household Member and Hispanic Health Disparities: Childhood Exposure and Adult Chronic Disease Risk Behaviors Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May, 2013“If the escalation of incarceration continues through the early years of this century, its public health effect will continue to grow as the children of those prisoners or former prisoners reach adulthood.”
  • Communities, Evictions & Criminal Convictions Public Housing and Disparate Impact: A Model Policy Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People's Movement, April, 2013“The focus of this report is to isolate and clarify one element of housing discrimination: excluding people with criminal records, and their whole families, from public housing.”
  • Return to Sender: Postcard-only Mail Policies in Jail Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2013“Postcard-only policies run contrary to prevailing correctional standards and best practices, and the vast majority of jail facilities around the country, as well as all prisons, successfully manage mail systems without postcard-only policies.”
  • Children of Incarcerated Parents in New York State: A Data Analysis NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, 2013“Almost half (49%) of survey respondents reported being the parent of a child under the age of 21.”
  • "Picking up the Pieces": The Rights and Needs of Children and Families Affected by Imprisonment Irish Penal Reform Trust, November, 2012“Child impact statements would be one practical approach which would permit the voice of the child to be heard, as outlined under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), when considering putting a parent/parents into custody.”
  • Video Visits for Children Whose Parents Are Incarcerated In Whose Best Interest? Sentencing Project, October, 2012“Children may benefit from video visitation if it increases opportunities for them to communicate with their parents. But video visitation is not a substitute for in-person contact visits, particularly for infants and young children.”
  • Families Unlocking Futures Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice Justice for Families, October, 2012“The primary problems are: (1) Incarceration doesn't work, as evidenced by recidivism rates and a long record of chronic and shameful abuses; and (2) by and large, probation and other forms of risk management do not help youth succeed in the long-term.”
  • The Family And Recidivism Vera Institute of Justice, September, 2012“Among the inmates surveyed, 84 percent reported that their families were supportive during their incarceration.”
  • Families and Reentry Unpacking How Social Support Matters Urban Institute, June, 2012“Our analysis [...] shows that while family members' reported that number of activities performed together increases significantly over time, as formerly incarcerated persons are in the community for longer the number of hardships [...] also increases.”
  • Juvenile Justice Reform In Arkansas Building a Better Future for Youth, their Families, and the Community Arkansas Division of Youth Services, February, 2012“Almost all youth committed to DYS are non-violent offenders. During the first 3 quarters of FY 2008, more than 90% of all commitments were for non-violent offenses.”
  • The Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Needs and Responsive Services Joint State Government Commission, General Assembly of Pennsylvania, December, 2011“In accordance with the HR 203 and SR 52, the present report focuses on ameliorative intervention, at mitigating the negative impacts of parental incarceration on children, and assisting these children in becoming healthy, productive and responsible adults”
  • The Effects of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism Minnesota Department of Corrections, November, 2011“Using multiple measures of visitation and recidivism, the study found that visitation significantly decreased the risk of recidivism. The results also showed that visits from siblings, in-laws, fathers, and clergy were the most beneficial...”
  • Close To Home: Building on Family Support for People Leaving Jail Vera Institute of Justice, October, 2011“Among incarcerated people, 84 percent reported that their family members continued to be supportive.”
  • Reentry and the Ties that Bind: An Examination of Social Ties, Employment, and Recidivism Justice Quarterly, April, 2011“In fact, the results suggest that good quality social ties may be particularly important for men with histories of frequent unemployment.”
  • Piloting a Tool for Reentry A Promising Approach to Engaging Family Members Vera Institute of Justice, March, 2011(To facilitate productive conversations about incarcerated individuals' positive social supports, the Vera Institute of Justice's Family Justice Program helps agencies implement the Relational Inquiry Tool (RIT) for use by corrections reentry staff.)
  • Children on the Outside Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration Justice Strategies, January, 2011“Too often, society dismisses the children of incarcerated parents as future liabilities to public safety while overlooking opportunities to address the pain and trauma with which these children struggle.”
  • Mothers Behind Bars State-by-state report card and analysis of federal policies on conditions of confinement for pregnant & parenting women The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, The National Women's Law Center, October, 2010“38 states received failing grades for their failure to institute adequate policies, or any policies at all, requiring that incarcerated pregnant women receive adequate prenatal care, despite the fact that many women in prison have higher-risk pregnancies.”
  • Study of Incarcerated Women and Their Children Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, January, 2010“Over three‐fourths of the women had only a high school education or less. Two‐thirds had been physically and/or sexually abused as a child.”
  • Parental Incarceration, Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption: A Case Study of the Intersection Between the Child Welfare and Criminal Justice Systems Justice Policy Journal, 2010“We found that less than a fifth of all parents, and only two percent with a history of incarceration, attended the dependency court hearings in which their children were detained, reunification requirements imposed, or parental rights terminated.”
  • Parental Incarceration, Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption: A Case Study of the Intersection Between the Child Welfare and Criminal Justice Systems Justice Policy Journal, 2010“We found that less than a fifth of all parents, and only two percent with a history of incarceration, attended the dependency court hearings in which their children were detained, reunification requirements imposed, or parental rights terminated.”
  • Mothers, Infants and Imprisonment A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based Alternatives Women's Prison Association, May, 2009“Though every state has seen a dramatic rise in its women's prison population over the past three decades, only nine states have prison nursery programs in operation or under development.”
  • Incarcerated Parents and their Children Trends 1991-2007 Sentencing Project, February, 2009“In 2007, 1.7 million minor children had a parent in prison, an 82% increase since 1991.”
  • Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2008“Parents held in the nation's prisons—52% of state inmates and 63% of federal inmates—reported having an estimated 1,706,600 minor children, accounting for 2.3% of the U.S. resident population under age 18.”
  • Inmate Social Ties and the Transition to Society: Does Visitation Reduce Recidivism? Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, June, 2008“Visitation of many types, including both family and friends, was associated with reduced and delayed onset of recidivism, with spousal visitation producing a more pronounced reduction in recidivism.”
  • Understanding the Experiences and Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents Views from Mentors Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, February, 2008“Stigma and shame represented an experience shared by most children of incarcerated parents that distinguished them from other at-risk peers.”
  • The Collateral Effects of Incarceration on Fathers, Families, and Communities Council on Crime and Justice, April, 2006“Incarcerating large numbers of men from one community is seen as a threat to both individual and community economic stability.”
  • Children of Incarcerated Parents Council on Crime and Justice, January, 2006“Results indicate that children and caregivers often had limited support systems, faced social isolation and encountered barriers with the criminal justice system and correctional institutions.”
  • Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances Bureau of Justice Statistics, June, 2005
  • Women In Prison In Massachusetts: Maintaining Family Connections Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, March, 2005
  • Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families ACLU, Break the Chains and Brennan Center, March, 2005
  • California Youth Authority Warehouses: Failing Kids, Families & Public Safety Books Not Bars and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, March, 2005
  • Washington State's Family Integrated Transitions Program for Juvenile Offenders: Outcome Evaluation and Benefit-Cost Analysis Washington State Institute for Public Policy, December, 2004
  • Chicago Prisoners' Experiences Returning Home Urban Institute, December, 2004“We present key findings on a range of reentry challenges and describe the factors related to postrelease success or failure[.]”
  • The Front Line Building Programs That Recognize Families' Role in Reentry Vera Institute of Justice, September, 2004
  • Hard Data on Hard Times An Empirical Analysis of Maternal Incarceration, Foster Care and Visitation Vera Institute of Justice, August, 2004
  • Findings and Opportunities: Family Violence in Central New Mexico Urban Institute, May, 2004
  • Patterns of Criminal Conviction and Incarceration Among Mothers of Children in Foster Care in New York City Vera Institute of Justice, December, 2003
  • Borrowing Against the Future: The Impact of Prison Expansion on Arizona Families, Schools and Communities Grassroots Leadership and Arizona Advocacy Network, April, 2003
  • Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001 Bureau of Justice Statistics, February, 2003
  • Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims' Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, August, 2002
  • Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits to Women Convicted of Drug Offenses Sentencing Project, February, 2002
  • Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim, 1993-99 Bureau of Justice Statistics, October, 2001
  • Incarcerated Parents and Their Children Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2000“Almost 1.5 million minor children have a mother or father in prison”
  • Collateral Casualties Children of Incarcerated Drug Offenders in New York Human Rights Watch, June, 2000“An estimated 23,537 children currently have parents in New York prisons convicted of drug charges.”
  • Intimate Partner Violence Bureau of Justice Statistics, May, 2000“Intimate partner violence against women declined from 1993 through 1998 -- One-third of all murdered females were killed by partner”
  • Some Days Are Harder Than Hard: Welfare Reform and Women With Drug Convictions in Pennsylvania Center for Law and Social Policy, December, 1999
  • Double Jeopardy: An Assessment of the Felony Drug Provision of the Welfare Reform Act Justice Policy Institute, October, 1998
  • Domestic and Sexual Violence Data Collection: A Report to Congress under the Violence Against Women Act , Bureau of Justice Statistics, July, 1996“how States and the Federal government collect data on the incidence of sexual and domestic violence offenses.”
  • Spouse Murder Defendants in Large Urban Counties Bureau of Justice Statistics, May, 1995
  • Crime and the Nation's Households, 1992 Bureau of Justice Statistics, September, 1993
  • Explorations in Inmate-Family Relationships Norman Holt, Donald Miller, California Department of Corrections, January, 1972“The central finding of this research is the strong and consistent positive relationship that exists between parole success and maintaining strong family ties while in prison.”

Pages Updated On: 16-Jan-2019 - 16:07:30
Links Engine 2.0 By: Gossamer Threads Inc.

Tweet this page Follow @PrisonPolicy on Twitter Donate

Stay Informed

Get the latest updates by signing up for our newsletters:

And our specialty lists:


  • Feb 21, 2019:
    Volunteer Attorney Stephen Raher will be presenting his paper “The Company Store and the Literally Captive Market: Consumer Law in Prisons and Jails” at the Consumer Law Conference at Berkeley Law School. The paper will be presented and discussed at 4:00pm.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.