United States Government on the Hot Seat for the Detrimental Impact on Children of Parental Incarceration

The United States Government is under review at the 85th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Committee is being asked to seriously consider: What can the United States Government do to address the psychological, emotional and physical needs of Indigenous, African-American and Latino children who face parental incarceration? As a member of civil society, Justice Strategies offers the following two suggestions as an opportunity for the Unites States government to honor the needs of children.

1. At the sentencing hearing of an individual convicted of a non-violent offense (i.e. a drug offense or property offense that is related to an addiction issue) and who is the parent of children and/or other dependents, the court should hear and consider what the impact of incarcerating the parent will be on her or his children or dependents.  Federal and state sentencing laws should allow judges to exercise discretion with respect to sentencing a parent to an alternative to a prison term (i.e. probation, drug treatment, an education or job training program). 


Example of a legislative scheme in Australia reflecting the above-mentioned:

Australian Consolidated Acts - Crimes Act 1914 -Section 29.25 - 16A 2(p)

2.  In order to assist judges in assessing the impact of parental incarceration on children and/or other dependents, federal and state governments should have a statutory requirement that Family Impact Statements be submitted to the court for their review before a sentencing determination is completed. Example of a Family Impact Statement in New York State: http://www.osborneny.org/images/uploads/printMedia/FamilyImpactStatementFactSheet_Osborne.pdf


Patricia Allard


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