Sharing the Sentence: How MN's Prison Policies Affect Kids
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Thousands of Minnesota children have at least one parent who has spent time in prison, and a report released today shows those children also may have fewer opportunities in life.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation report shows that about 67,000 Minnesota children have had a parent incarcerated and those families may be struggling with emotional and financial problems.
Stephanie Hogenson, research and policy director for Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, says that for many of these kids, that could have long-term negative effects.
"Children of incarcerated parents are often invisible, and they not only miss out on physical and emotional support of their parents, but they're at risk of poverty and instability in housing," Hogenson states.
The report also says the issue can wreak the same emotional damage on children as abuse or domestic violence.
Nationally, about 5 million young people have been separated from a parent because of a prison sentence.
The foundation suggests several changes states can make to ease the burden on families. Minnesota already has put some of those ideas into practice, including a 2014 ban the box law, which puts restrictions on when employers can ask about an employee's criminal background.
But, Scot Spencer, the Casey Foundation’s associate director for advocacy and influence, says there are more steps Minnesota lawmakers could take.
"States should take advantage of newly raised thresholds for funding prison education programs under the Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and direct more funds toward education and training for incarcerated individuals," he urges.
Additionally, the Casey Foundation report notes that African-American and Latino children are much more likely to have an incarcerated parent than their white peers.