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Occasional Series on Prison Reentry: The Growth of Incarceration in the United States. Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and Childhood Wellbeing Sara Wakefield School of Criminal Justice Rutgers University [email protected] Acknowledgements and More Information.

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Occasional series on prison reentry the growth of incarceration in the united states
Occasional Series on Prison Reentry: The Growth of Incarceration in the United States

Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and Childhood Wellbeing

Sara Wakefield

School of Criminal Justice

Rutgers University

[email protected]


Acknowledgements and more information
Acknowledgements and More Information

  • Frequent Collaborator:

    • Chris Wildeman (Cornell)

  • Also see the work of Kristin Turney(UC-Irvine)

  • Annotated Bibliography of Additional Research:

    • www.johnjayresearch.org/pri


Plan of talk
Plan of talk

  • Linking Mass Incarceration and Childhood Wellbeing

  • Individual-Level Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children

  • Implications for Social Inequality and Long-Term Harm

  • Undoing the Damage


1 mass incarceration
1. Mass Incarceration

Linking Mass Incarceration and Children


What is mass incarceration
What is mass incarceration?

  • Historically novel, comparatively extreme.

  • Common life experience for the urban poor.

  • Resulting in the “systematic incarceration of whole groups.”



Risk of imprisonment by age 30 34 men born 1945 49 1970 74
Risk of imprisonment by age 30-34: Men born 1945-49, 1970-74



2 parental incarceration effects
2. Parental Incarceration Effects

Mental Health and Behavioral Problems, Homelessness, Infant Mortality, and Caregiver-Child Relationships


Summary of findings
Summary of Findings

  • For Fathers:

    • Global and consequential

    • Nearly always in the direction of harm for non-violent fathers

  • For Mothers

    • Variable and less consistent

    • As often protective as harmful?

  • Larger Implications

    • The Concentration of Incarceration in Families

    • Social Inequality and Race Gaps in Childhood Wellbeing


Focal outcomes
Focal Outcomes

  • Mental Health and Behavioral Problems: Allchildrenexperiencesomeofthem,andthey predicteverythingfromdropouttoteenpregnancytocrime

  • Homelessness: Goodinsight intomostmarginalizedchildren, andmassiveincreasesinblack-whitegapssince1980.

  • Infant Mortality: Consideredthebestmeasureofchildhealth,andblack-whiteinequalitieshavestubbornlyheldsteady.

  • Caregiver-Child Relationship: Possible important mechanism







Summary of individual level findings
Summary of Individual-Level Findings History

  • Paternal incarceration increases:

    • Behavioral problems

    • Physically aggressive behaviors

    • Homelessness

    • Infant mortality

    • Risk of conflict, abuse, and neglect by caregivers

  • Effects usually absent in cases of a violent father or a history of domestic abuse in the family

  • The incarceration of a non-violent father is a global harm for children


3 aggregating up harms
3. Aggregating Up Harms History

The Concentration of Incarceration in Families and Social Inequality





4 undoing the damage
4. Undoing the Damage Inequality in Childhood Wellbeing

Summary and Unanswered Questions


The usual suspects
The usual suspects Inequality in Childhood Wellbeing

  • WhenwethinkabouttheforcesthatshapewellbeingamongAmericanchildren,wetendtothinkmostly aboutthingslikeneighborhoods,schools,andfamilies.

  • The penal system ought to be added to the list.


Undoing the damage
Undoing the Damage Inequality in Childhood Wellbeing

  • Interventions best found outside of the criminal justice system

    • Enhancing social safety net

    • Strengthening interventions in the poorest neighborhoods to reduce the damaging effects of crime and incarceration

  • *Smart* reductions in the incarceration rate

    • For children with currently incarcerated parents

    • To reduce the likelihood of the experience for children at risk for parental incarceration


Thanks for your time
Thanks for your time! Inequality in Childhood Wellbeing

  • Questions?


Additional source material
Additional Source Material Inequality in Childhood Wellbeing

  • Wakefield, Sara. 2014. “Accentuating the Positive or Eliminating the Negative? Father Incarceration and Caregiver-Child Relationship Quality.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 104, 4.

  • Wakefield, Sara, and Christopher Wildeman. 2011. Mass Imprisonment and Racial Disparities in Childhood Behavioral Problems. Criminology & Public Policy10:793-817.

  • Wakefield, Sara and Christopher Wildeman. 2013. Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Wakefield, Sara and Christopher Uggen. 2010. “Incarceration and Stratification.” Annual Review of Sociology 36: 387-406.


Isolating incarceration effects
Isolating Incarceration Effects Inequality in Childhood Wellbeing

Future Disadvantage

Prior Disadvantage

Incarceration


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