The Incarcerated Parents Crisis in America

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of three American children live without their biological dad in the home. Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today. We must realize there is a father absence crisis in America that is due to the injustice of drug related sentencing.

Youths in father-absent households still have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds! A 2002 Department of Justice survey of 7,000 inmates revealed that 39% of jail inmates lived in mother-only households. Approximately 46% of jail inmates in 2002 had a previously incarcerated family member. One-fifth experienced a father in prison or jail. What Americans needs to acknowledge is that “our” children are the future; and how we raise them is going to play a key role in the way our society will progress. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, join in delinquency, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves.


  • Official U.S. data shows that 63 percent of youth suicides (5 times the average), 70 percent of youths in state-operated institutions (9 times the average) and 85 percent of children with behavioral disorders (20 times the average) are from fatherless homes.
  • Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.
  • Daughters of single parents without a Father involved are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 711% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a pre-marital birth and 92% more likely to get divorced themselves.

Our legislative system is creating generational problems for our society and the future of our nation. These children who are being raised with a parent incarcerated are not as stable as those who live in a two-parent household. These children need stability and need to have a healthy relationship with their parents, especially those incarcerated.

Knowing this we need to develop an alternative punishment for non-violent drug offenses. Such as reducing sentences for incarcerated people who participate in rehabilitation programs, expanding sealing and expungement criteria for some juvinelle offenses, and providing the possibility of parole for some offenses committed while a juvinelle.

Our legislation needs to be stronger and it should eliminate unfair mandatory minimums altogether. Our legislation should do more to eliminate punitive incarceration for children and opt instead for community-based rehabilitation. Our legislation is barely scratching the surface of what needs to be done, and there is much more to do.



“Their Punishments Didn’t Fit the Crime”


In July, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders.  14 of them had been sentenced to life in prison for non-violent drug offenses.  The president stated that, “…I’m determined to do my part wherever I can” to right the injustices of the criminal justice system.

Obama is trying to rectify a system that is deeply flawed in both it’s sentencing and the application of those sentences.  The sad truth is that the poor and minority are disproportionately sentenced harshly by the current system, and those with economic or social means are able to escape the fate of their less fortunate citizens.


One of those granted clemency, Douglas Lindsay, is emblematic of those wronged by the system.  Lindsay, an African American, poor army veteran, was convicted of a nonviolent drug crime (possession and intent to distribute crack) and was sentenced to life in prison.  If Douglas had been white, wealthy, and caught with powder cocaine…well, he probably would have gotten probation with a good (read: expensive) lawyer.



“Releasing 6,000 Inmates’ Isn’t Enough”



Blakinger’s Post article hits the nail on the head for multiple points:

  • Pre-trial detention – 20% of the inmate population – is incarceration of people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime.  The current bail system means that the poor have to stay in jail until trial while the wealthier can be freed.
  • Incarceration of mentally ill inmates, at least as it currently stands, is doing more harm than good.  The majority receive essentially no treatment outside of some medication.  Outpatient or even inpatient treatment facilities would be less expensive and more effective than incarcerating the mentally ill.
    • (See also the documentary “Into the Abyss” on solitary confinement)

“…prison inherently is a bad environment for drug treatment. About 65 percent of inmates have drug addictions, but only 11 percent are treated, according to a 2010 report by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Not only do prisons rarely treat addictions, they often make addiction worse.”


  • Incarceration does no good for and usually harms drug addicts.  Non-violent drug addicts (picked up for drug offenses, petty theft or possession) are given no meaningful treatment in prison.  Often, addictions worsen or “ratchet up” while incarcerated.  Blakinger gives the example of several women she knew who entered jail alcoholics and left heroin addicts.

Economically and humanely, it is evident that America’s current correctional system needs to change.

Read Blakinger’s article here

Non-Violent Drug Offenders Fill America’s Prisons

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“Non-violent drug offenders continue to clog the U.S. prison system, and Obama has decided to commute or pardon more than 150 inmates with hope that they can reestablish themselves into society as viable, valuable members of their respective communities. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all commuted sentences towards the end of their terms — much like Obama.” Read More