Most inmates are parents. There are an estimated 2 million children with a parent in prison, about one fourth of them under five years old. Before they went to prison, about two-thirds of the mothers lived with their children.
Prison disrupts families. Children of prisoners are taken in by friends or family, or enter foster care. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 speeds up termination of parental rights when children are in foster care for extended times.
The long-term effects on families continue after parents are released from prison. In order to regain custody, parents must demonstrate their ability to provide shelter, food, safety and stability. In all cases, families must deal with the effects of stigma and separation.
The Bureau of Prisons offers evidence that inmates connected to their children and families are more likely to avoid negative incidents and reduce their sentences. It is important that ties among family members be sustained.