Study: Nearly Half of U.S. Children Have a Parent in Justice System

A study by researchers from the University of Michigan found that at least four in 10 children in the U.S. born between 1999 and 2005 were raised in a home where a parent or co-residing adult faced at least one criminal charge, reports The Hill.

Some 9 percent of children have had an intergenerational exposure to prison, 18 percent have been exposed to felony conviction and 39 percent in total have been exposed to any criminal charge over the course of childhood.

The study also found that Black and Native American children, as well as children from low-income households, are exposed to the justice system at twice the rate of their white counterparts.

This type of exposure to the justice system may hurt child development, causing students to fall behind in school and increase the likelihood of teen crime and death. Researchers said their figures are far higher than previous estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that show less than one in 40 children have a parent in prison in a given year.

Michael Mueller-Smith, assistant professor of economics and faculty associate at the Population Studies Center, and one of the researchers, called the findings a “wake-up call.”

“That we find estimates with close to half of U.S. children having intergenerational exposure to crime and justice is a wake-up call to the failures of our public policy to date,” he said in a statement.

“Even if the justice system were completely overhauled today, we will be living with the damage done to our current and former generations for decades to come.”

Additional Reading:

Children of Incarcerated Parents Need Support: Study, The Crime Report, Feb. 21, 2021

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