Characteristics of Inmates - Prisoners And Their Children
parents increased federal prisons
In 1999, the latest year for which statistics are available, some 1.5 million children had a parent in prison (Christopher J. Mumola, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2000). At the state level, 642,300 prisoners had 1.325 million minor children being taken care of by others. In federal prisons, 79,200 prisoners had left 173,900 children in others' care. (See Table 5.9.) Among state prisoners, males were parents to 92% of the minor children, female prisoners accounted for 8% of children left behind. In federal prisons, female prisoners were parents to 6% of minor children left behind, while male prisoners accounted for 94%.
Looking at state prisons only, the number of prisoners' children had increased by 55% since 1991. Prisoners with children had on average 2.1 children both in 1991 and 1999. Male parents in state prison increased 54%; the number of their children increased by 52%. The female-parent prison population rose 82%; the children they had left doubled in number in this eight-year period.
Data for federal prisons show a somewhat different picture. Children with parents in federal prisons more than doubled—a 106.5% increase; federal prisoners with children increased 101%. Children with a male parent in prison increased 108.6% (from 78,300 to 163,300), those with a female parent in prison by 79.7% (from 5,900 children in 1991 to 10,600 in 1999).
According to Mumola in Incarcerated Parents and Their Children:
Half of the parents in state prison were never married.
Fewer than half of the parents in state prison lived with their minor children before incarceration.
One-third of mothers in prison had been living alone with their children in the months before arrest.
Fathers cite the child's mother as the current caregiver; mothers cite the child's grandparents or other relatives.
About 40% of fathers and 60% of mothers in state prison had at least weekly contact with their children.
A majority of parents in prison were violent offenders or drug traffickers.