Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children: A Two-Generation Approach

By: Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach, Rachel West, and Jackie Odum. Published by: Center for American Progress. Published in December 2015.

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The executive summary reads:

“While the effects of parental incarceration on children and families are well-documented, less appreciated are the family consequences that stem from the barriers associated with having a criminal record, whether or not the parent has ever been convicted or spent time behind bars. A child’s life chances are strongly tied to his or her circumstances during childhood. Thus, these barriers may not only affect family stability and economic security in the short term but also may damage a child’s long-term well-being and outcomes.

Our new analysis estimates that between 33 million and 36.5 million children in the United States—nearly half of U.S. children—now have at least one parent with a criminal record. In this report, we argue that parental criminal records significantly exacerbate existing challenges among low-income parents and their families.

We explore the intergenerational effects of criminal records through five pillars of family well-being:

  • Income. Parents with criminal records have lower earning potential, as they often face major obstacles to securing employment and receiving public assistance.
  • Savings and assets. Mounting criminal justice debts and unaffordable child support arrears severely limit families’ ability to save for the future and can trap them in a cycle of debt.
  • Education. Parents with criminal records face barriers to education and training opportunities that would increase their chances of finding well-paying jobs and better equip them to support their families.
  • Housing. Barriers to public as well as private housing for parents with criminal records can lead to housing instability and make family reunification difficult if not impossible.
  • Family strength and stability. Financial and emotional stressors associated with parental criminal records often pose challenges in maintaining healthy relationships and family stability.”


Categories: Individual Rights, Legal Aid Practitioners, National, Policymakers and Funders, Reentry, Reentry, Researchers and Academics

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