The boom in incarceration rates in the U.S., following the War on Drugs and other sentencing reforms inspired by the “tough on crime” ideology, has had devastating effects on the rights of the incarcerated – many of whom are in prison for deeds that resulted in little or no harm to anyone – but also on the rights of their family members, none of whom did anything wrong. These rights violations have fallen disproportionally on an already disadvantaged group of American society, namely African-Americans. And it’s their children who suffer along:
- 1 in 40 white children born in 1978 and 1 in 25 white children born in 1990 had a parent imprisoned;
- 1 in 7 black children born in 1978 and 1 in 4 black children born in 1990 had a parent imprisoned;
- inequality in the risk of parental imprisonment between white children of college-educated parents and all other children is growing; and
- by age 14, 50.5% of black children born in 1990 to high school dropouts had a father imprisoned. (source, source)
Children especially are placed at considerable risk by policies of incarceration. Incarcerated men are less likely to contribute financially or otherwise to their families and their children’s education. The same is true even in the case of formerly incarcerated men, because of their inferior earnings. Hence, the effects of incarceration place children at a significant economic disadvantage, which is punishment without a crime, worthy only of a dictatorship.