Friday, April 2, 2010

Parent-child contact during incarceration

Staying in Touch

An examination of the 1997 survey data on state prisoners indicates that most children’s contact with their parents in prison is irregular or nonexistent.
Since being admitted to prison, more than half of parents with minor children had never seen any of their children.

Gender and ethnicity are associated with the likelihood that incarcerated parents will maintain contact.

It is likely that the number of children who had not seen their parents since they entered prison is higher than this number reflects. This is because parents provided information for at least one of their children, but not necessarily for all of them. Since many parents with two or more children had different levels of contact with them prior to imprisonment, these different patterns might continue during incarceration. Prison rules and restrictions, the distances involved, increased family tensions and the effects of stigma all hamper the communication between incarcerated parents and their children.

Gender and ethnic differences

The likelihood that incarcerated parents will maintain contact with their children appears to be based in part on their gender and ethnicity. Mothers in prison stay in touch with their children more than fathers in prison, and African-American incarcerated parents of either gender maintain connections more than parents of other ethnicities. Sixty-one percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of Caucasians had not visited with their children in-person since they were incarcerated, compared to 55 percent of African-Americans. Twenty-four percent of African-Americans reported monthly visits with their children, compared with 21 percent of Caucasians and 20 percent of Hispanics. The numbers are similar for phone contact; 33 percent of African-Americans maintained weekly phone calls with their children, compared to 26 percent of Caucasians and 22 percent of Hispanics. Conversely, 50 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Caucasians and 33 percent of African-Americans had never spoken with any of their children by phone. Divided by gender, 31 percent of mothers and 42 percent of fathers had never talked with any of their children by phone.

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