NewsPublic Affairs / March 3, 2015

Parents Behind Bars: Indiana Near Top of National List

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Nearly 11 percent of Indiana children have parents who are – or have – served time. The rate is second only to that of neighboring Kentucky, where 13 percent of kids have incarcerated parents. 

The national Survey of Children’s Health also found that 62 percent of female inmates, and slightly more than half of male inmates – have children who are under age 18. Bill Stanczykiewicz, the president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, says experts speculate that drug crimes, and drug laws, may account for the high ranking.

"There’s no doubt that there have been changes in sentencing over the last 10 to 20 years that have led to greater incarceration. Indiana just revisited those laws to allow for either less incarceration or alternatives to incarceration. There’s a bill moving through the General Assembly right now to  give more local communities more money to provide mental health and substance abuse counseling to low-level offenders. In the meantime, we have the second highest percentage of kids who are going to live with this fact for the rest of their lives."

And Stanczykiewicz says the effects on kids can be long-lasting.

"These children are much more likely to live in poverty, much more likely to be homeless, much more likely to have physical and mental health problems, to have problems in school and be delinquent themselves. It also has this intangible, as researchers say the kids have a feeling of powerlessness, it really drops how they view themselves and it makes them much more challenged in becoming a well-adjusted adult."

Bill Stanczykiewicz is president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

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