65 million Americans have criminal records, and more than 3 out of 100 Americans are incarcerated, on the way to being incarcerated, or have been released from incarceration. When broken out by race, these numbers are dramatically worse for people of color. Almost 2 million African American children have a parent in prison on any given day.
Minneapolis, MN for instance, arrested 44% of its adult Black men in 2001. There were no duplicate arrests and 58% of those men went on to be rearrested for a second crime within 2 years. America now leads the world in incarceration; 5% of the earth’s population and 25% of its prison population.
The children of incarcerated parents have higher rates of pregnancy, dropout and expulsion rates from school, STDs, mental health issues & criminal behavior. In fact, the children of incarcerated parents have more involvement with the criminal justice system than their offending parent did. Photo courtesy of Richard Ross Juvenile-in-justice.com
Instead of crisis nurseries, subsidized daycare, and other youth friendly programs that help these children cope and adjust, America builds more and bigger prisons, crime grows and our communities are much less safe than they should be (see Flint, Compton, Detroit and I have stories of my own city, Minneapolis).
66% recidivism means that most people go back to prison (again and again). It’s expensive, stupid, and a sure way to lower the quality of life in any nation.
For many years I have worked with children of prisoner parents as a CASA guardian ad-Litem. Most of these kids will never have a chance without more of us speaking for them and demanding that they receive the help they need to cope and adjust. Marion Wright Edelman is right when she calls this a pipeline to prison. MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Blatz is right when she says that “the difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years”.
Someone should say something – pass this on to your friends (invite me to speak at your next event)
Opinion: Children of incarcerated parents are ‘collateral damage’ of criminal justice system
By Times of Trenton guest opinion column
on July 03, 2013 at 6:35 AM, updated July 03, 2013 at 6:40 AM
By Henrie M. Treadwell
Incarceration has a phenomenal effect on children whose family members are in prison. Studies suggest that girls with an incarcerated household member have sex at younger ages, are less likely to use contraceptives, have more sexual partners and are more likely to become pregnant before age 20. Other researchers report that high levels of incarceration affect the ability of African-American male adolescents to imagine their future, due to the absence of so many men as role models in their homes and neighborhood. Overall, research indicates that 23 percent of children with a father who has served time in jail or prison have been expelled or suspended from school. Parental incarceration is correlated with higher school dropout rates, lower academic achievement, greater involvement with juvenile justice and ultimately more involvement with the criminal justice system as offenders themselves.
Currently, in the United States, one in 134 adults is in jail or prison. Among African-American adults, the number is nearly one in 20. In 2007, approximately 1.7 million African-American children, or one in 15, had a parent in prison on any given day. Data for jails, probation and parole are not available. Children whose parents are in jail or prison experience teasing or bullying in school and in other social settings and tend to withdraw or act out. Many youth who are seen at public mental health agencies have parents who have a prison record. Their depression, anger, withdrawal and/or acting out are ignored or misdiagnosed in school and other settings. Every day is a difficult time for these children and, given the numbers, they are all around us.
A major damaging aspect of incarceration on the fathers, particularly poor fathers, is that child support bills mount; they will leave prison with an average of $20,000 in back debt. According to the Federal Agency for Child Support Enforcement, 70 percent of all back child support is owed by men earning less than $10,000 a year. In addition, 29 percent of those fathers who are delinquent on their child support payments are re-incarcerated. Most of those who are institutionalized are actually in prison for failure to pay child support. A de facto debtor’s prison has been reinstituted in the United States and primarily houses poor men of color who have become trapped in a well-intentioned but racially insensitive policy that fails to face the reality that poor men of color earn less than white men, even when both have comparable work, incarceration and criminal offense histories. Those coming home are very often unable to find a job because of a felony conviction that employers regularly use to deny employment. In sum, they cannot earn a living wage that provides resources to help heal the wounds of separation.
It is difficult to determine how communities can provide the services that will help these children, as we know too little about them. New Jersey and many other states do not collect information on those prisoners who are parents of minor children. We know the danger of failing to proactively intervene. The New Jersey Human Relations Council recently held a meeting with experts who discussed best practices in addressing the plight of the children of incarcerated parents, a condition which, in the words of the council, “negatively affects a vast number of New Jersey children and families.” The council does not know precisely how many children are affected. How large is “vast,” and do we have policies and resources in place to meaningfully help? The council meeting was a significant beginning.
Women advocates and policymakers were leaders in securing legislation to support enforcement of child support policies. These same women and their male colleagues can address the problems faced by these African-American children and all children in a similar situation and their families. We need to review and revise punitive policies that make it impossible for men to pay child support fees, which mount inexorably while they are incarcerated, are not forgiven or adjusted and fuel the prison industry. Women can advocate for payment for custodial parents who are left to fend for themselves and for the children when the partner is incarcerated. And women can advocate for child visiting centers in men’s prisons and state-supported transportation so that the children will be able to visit their incarcerated parent on a regular basis, as a part of the court order.
Women of every race, creed and color should vow that the children of incarcerated parents no longer become collateral damage as part of a criminal justice system disparately and insensitively applied. Poor families of color are disproportionately affected, since they represent, for a variety of irrational reasons, the majority of prisoners. Their children, already blighted by insensitivities to race and poverty, cannot defend themselves against the damage inflicted by a system not sensitive to the nurturing that even an incarcerated or released parent can provide.
Henrie M. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a research professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. She is the author of “Beyond Stereotypes in Black and White: How Everyday Leaders Can Build Healthier Opportunities for African American Boys and Men.”
Published on Mar 23, 2011 – 8:16:40 AM
By: National Employment Law Project
NEW YORK, March 23, 2011 – More than one in four U.S. adults — roughly 65 million people –have an arrest or conviction that shows up in a routine criminal background check, and a new report from the National Employment Law Project finds that these Americans are facing unprecedented barriers to employment. With the rapidly expanding use of background checks, employers are routinely, and often illegally, excluding all job applicants who have criminal records from consideration, no matter how minor or dated their offenses.
The new report highlights the widespread and illegal use of blanket no-hire policies by providing numerous examples of online job ads posted on Craigslist, including some by major corporations, that effectively bar significant portions of the U.S. population from work opportunities. Because of their blunt impact and extreme overreach, these blanket no-hire policies have become the subject of increasing litigation, attracting heightened scrutiny from the courts and concerned policymakers. At the same time, 92 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks, according to a 2010 Society for Human Resources Management survey.
“The fast-growing use of criminal background checks casts an extraordinarily wide net, potentially ensnaring millions of Americans who have an arrest or other record that shows up in a routine check,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “These background checks are supposed to promote safety in the workplace, but many employers have gone way overboard, refusing to even consider highly qualified applicants just because of an old arrest or conviction. They’re not even bothering to ask what the arrest or conviction was for, how far in the past it was, whether it’s in any way related to the job, or what the person has done with his or her life since,” said Owens.
The NELP report, entitled “65 Million ‘Need Not Apply’: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment,” surveys online job ads posted on Craigslist in five major cities—San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Atlanta. The survey found numerous examples in which extreme requirements precluded consideration of anyone with a criminal record, in clear violation of federal civil rights law. Major companies, such as Domino’s Pizza, the Omni Hotel, and Adecco USA, were just some of the employers that listed entry-level jobs on Craigslist—ranging from warehouse workers to delivery drivers to sales clerks—that unambiguously shut the door on applicants with criminal records:
“No Exceptions! . . . No Misdemeanors and/or Felonies of any type ever in background”
“*** DO NOT APPLY WITH ANY MISDEMEANORS / FELONIES ***”
“You must not have any felony or misdemeanor convictions on your record. Period.”
NELP found more than 300 instances over four months last year in which staffing agencies and employers, large and small, posted over-exclusionary job ads. Based on the findings, NELP concludes that there are easily thousands of postings by employers nationwide imposing blanket policies against hiring people with criminal records.
“The consistent message across the country is that people with criminal records ‘need not apply’ to jobs for which they might be the perfect fit. We hope this survey provides a wake-up call for how dire the situation has become for too many workers in today’s economy and how to move forward to achieve fairer and more accurate criminal background checks for employment,” said Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, an attorney with NELP and the lead author of the report.
A recent wave of federal litigation has made clear that blanket screening policies are unfair and unlawful. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination in employment based on race, gender, national origin, and other protected categories is prohibited, whether intentional or not. In 1987, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission specifically stated that barring people from employment based on their criminal records disproportionately excludes African Americans and Latinos because they are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. In contrast with the blanket screening barriers documented in the report, Title VII requires employers to take into account the specific job responsibilities and the nature of the individual’s record.
Workers like Darrell Langdon have felt the impact of no-hire policies. After struggling with addiction in his youth, Mr. Langdon has been sober for more than 20 years, and, now 52, has raised two sons as a single father. Although he has moved forward, his 25-year-old felony conviction for possession of cocaine remains. After working as a boiler room fireman in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and then as a mortgage broker, Mr. Langdon applied to be a boiler room engineer in the schools. Despite a clean record for more than two decades and prior experience in the schools, he was rejected for the job because of his conviction. After Mr. Langdon’s case garnered substantial publicity, CPS reversed its decision and hired him for the position.
“Combine today’s tight job market, the upsurge in background checks and the growing number of people with criminal records, and the results are untenable. Building on the best practices being adopted in states and communities around the nation, now is the time to turn this situation around and do what’s right for workers, employers, and the struggling economy. With more than one in four U.S. adults bearing a criminal record, this issue has potential public safety and economic consequences for virtually every home in America,” said Ms. Rodriguez.
NELP recommends a menu of reforms to advance the employment rights of people with criminal records and promote safety and security at the workplace. Specifically, the report recommends more aggressive enforcement of the national civil rights and consumer protection laws that regulate criminal background checks for employment, a new federal sector initiative to adopt fair hiring policies that serve as a model for all employers, and leadership on the part of the employer community and Craigslist to properly balance the mutual interest of workers and employers in fairer and more accurate criminal background checks for employment.
NELP’s report can be downloaded at http://www.nelp.org/page/-/65_Million_Need_Not_Apply.pdf?nocdn=1
Click here for NELP’s guide to best practices for employers who conduct criminal background checks.