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Indiana Has Higher Than Average Number of Incarcerated Parents

A new report shows a shocking number of Indiana kids who have or have had a parent in prison or jail. (in.gov)
A new report shows a shocking number of Indiana kids who have or have had a parent in prison or jail. (in.gov)
April 25, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS - There are 177,000 kids in Indiana who have or have had a parent in jail or prison. That equals 11 percent, while the national average is seven percent. A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation takes a look at the impact that's having on children.

Scot Spencer, associate director of advocacy and influence for the Casey Foundation, says those kids are more likely to be low income.

He says around 65 percent of families with a person in jail aren't able to meet basic needs. He says that means whoever is taking care of these children has to make decisions about whether to pay rent or provide food.

"A great number of those kids are under 10," Spencer says. "More than 15 percent of children with parents in federal prison and 20 percent with parents in state prison are four or younger."

Spencer says reforms are needed, both to reduce incarceration and provide the essential services children need to get through this tough time.

He says communities, schools and faith groups can work together to help them.

Spencer says having a parent incarcerated can be a lifelong experience and has the same magnitude of impact as abuse, domestic violence and divorce.

"They're losing their parent in those critical years of child development," says Spencer. "And so there are some longstanding impacts. It can increase a child's mental-health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and it can hamper educational achievement in that child."

The report recommends increased education and job training for people in prison, and incentives for housing authorities to reduce the barriers people with criminal records face when it comes to finding a place to live.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN