Having a parent go to jail can be an extremely traumatizing experience for a child. Whether it’s the mother or father, the negative effects of parental incarceration touch every area of a child’s life. Criminal justice expert Eric Martin states the following:
“Children of incarcerated parents face profound and complex threats to their emotional, physical, educational, and financial well-being.”
When a child’s parent is jailed, Martin states that the child is highly likely to become a “hidden victim” of the criminal justice system. Often these children do not have access to support or even acknowledgement.
Despite the fact that many children suffer from the same post-crime issues as direct victims do, they don’t have the same institutional support. Generally, these hidden victims do not benefit from the societal assistance systems typically available to direct crime victims.
In the past, we have discussed how important it is for jail administrators to encourage and facilitate visits between children and their mother or father who is in jail. Such visits can have a profound effect when it comes to mitigating the potential negative effects felt by children of incarcerated parents.
In fact, research by the Urban Institute shows that a child who visits his or her mother or father in jail is less likely to feel abandoned and anxious. Instead, visits in a child-friendly setting with appropriate emotional preparation can promote emotional security and have a positive effect on kids.
However, single one-off visits aren’t likely to modify behavior long-term. Consistent communication with parental figures is crucial for every child. It helps their brains develop, and their interpersonal skills grow. The more opportunities a child has to speak with their incarcerated parent, the better.
The Unseen Victim
As a society, we must also put in place a social safety net to help catch these children. Our country has to stop willfully ignoring these kids in the Criminal Justice reform conversation. In order for that to happen, we need to talk about the problems they face.
We can’t allow this victimization to continue. Our country must ensure that children of incarcerated parents have access to the resources they need. Both physical and emotional resources are vitally important. Access to the systems designed to protect direct victims of crime are also important. Now is the time to support the unseen victims of crime: children.
In order to combat the profoundly negative effects rooted in parental incarceration, we need to raise awareness of the problem. When a child’s mother or father is jailed, that child faces a range of problems that are not his or her fault. Far too few people understand this fact, especially in government.
How You Can Help
Society can do better for these children. Rather than continue to ignore the problem, share this article today to help raise awareness. Your voice matters, and change can only happen when society demands it.