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7|A SENTENCE APART | Discussion Guide | CREATING CONTEXT CHILDREN OF INCARCERATED PARENTS One in every 28 American children—2.7 million—has a parent behind bars. More than twice that number have parents under some other form of criminal justice supervision (e.g. probation, parole), and more than half (54 percent) of individuals incarcerated in U.S. prisons are parents to a child or children under the age of 17[6] . Despite this statistic, there is no requirement that those institutions charged with dealing with accused individuals—police, courts, jails, prisons and probation departments—inquire about children’s existence, much less concern themselves with children’s care. The result is that these children are often ignored during the arrest and sentencing of their parents, are excluded from decisions that impact their family, do not receive needed support and care while their parent is locked up, and are not supported to visit and/or adjust to a parent’s reentry into the family upon release. Research shows that children with a parent incarcerated experience high levels of worry, fear, confusion, sadness, guilt, anger, and embarrassment, which can lead to behavior and learning difficulties. Improving policies and services for children of incarcerated parents is a targeted yet critical component of the reforms are needed in the criminal justice, education, and social welfare systems. The children so often invisible but so profoundly affected—should be given a voice in these efforts. PARENT & CHILD VISITS When parents are sent to jail, there is often little in place to help them meet the needs and concerns of their children. Yet research suggests that if parents are able to continue communication and maintain a relationship with their children while they are incarcerated, both parents and children will fare better both during and after the incarceration [7] . Studies have shown that children who visit their parents more often and under better visiting conditions exhibit fewer adjustment problems, and that visits have the potential to help both children and parents to maintain healthy relationships throughout the incarceration period[8] . REFERENCES 6. The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010. Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC; The Pew Charitable Trusts. 7. Eddy, J.M., Kjellstrand, J.M., Martinez, C.R. and Newton, R. (2010). Theory-based multimodal parenting intervention for incarcerated parents and their families, in Eddy and Poehlmann (editors). Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners. The Urban Institute Press.  Washington, D.C. 8. Smith A, Krisman K, Strozier, A.L. & Marley, M.A. (2004). Breaking through the bars. Exploring the experiences of addict- ed incarcerated parents whose children are cared for by relatives.  Families in Society, 85(2), 187-195.  Christian, J. (2005),  Riding the bus.  Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(1), 31-48.