Indiana Beats National Average for Parental Incarceration


A recently released policy report says Indiana leads other states when it comes to the number of children whose parents are incarcerated.

The report, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, retrieved data through surveys and incarceration statistics to rank the top states for parents behind bars. It found that 11-percent of Hoosier children have had at least one parent in jail. That bests the national average of seven percent; and only trails Kentucky – which reported a rate of 13-percent.

Annie E. Casey Foundation Advocacy Director Scot Spencer says the effects on a child can often be the same as abuse, domestic violence, and divorce.

“They’re losing their parent in those critical years of child development,” says Spencer. “So there are some long standing impacts. It can increase a child’s mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and it can hamper educational achievement in that child.”

The report coincides with “National Reentry Week,” running April 24th through the 30th. It’s a period designed to promote awareness about what the U.S. Department of Justice says is the need for effective services to help those exiting the criminal justice system.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has developed recommendations for policy makers to consider. Financially supporting the children of those affected, helping incarcerated individuals find employment upon release, and strengthening communities disproportionately affected by incarceration are among the recommendations.

Spencer says many of those with a parent in jail are quite young.

“A great number of those kids are under 10,” says Spencer. “More than 15-percent of children with parents in federal prison and 20-percent with parents in state prison are four or younger.”

About 65-percent of those with an incarcerated family member are often unable to meet basic needs, according to the report.

Spencer also recommends reducing barriers to housing for individuals re-entering society.