Criminal Justice News

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Impact of Incarceration on Families: A Single-Jurisdiction Pilot Study Using Triangulated Administrative Data & Qualitative Interviews

Authors: Dana DeHart, Cheri Shapiro, James W. Hardin

Using multi-agency data, this study examined how offender incarceration impacts family members' physical and mental health; how offender incarceration impacts his/her children's involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; how incarceration impacts the receipt of economic services by family members; and how offender incarceration impacts the academic performance of children.

Quantitative analyses found that families of prisoners are most likely to experience stress-related physical health disorders of the heart, lungs, digestive, and endocrine systems prior to and during the incarceration of a loved one. Similarly, mental health diagnoses for these family members were highest during the incarceration.

The risk for foster placement among children of inmates decreased during the incarceration, which may be due to alternative living arrangements. Further research is needed to examine this finding. Children’s risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system increased over time from before the parent’s incarceration to after the incarceration.

Regarding children's educational performance, minor family members' math and reading scores were higher before incarceration than during incarceration. Data on economic social services indicate that families experienced a decrease in the use of economic services during incarceration and possibly after incarceration.

Reasons for loss of benefits warrants further research. The study methodology involved the development of an integrated data cube, an analysis of linked administrative data, inmate focus groups, and family interviews.

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