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July 5, 2009

"In Prisoners’ Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids"

05prison_grafic_enlarge The title of this post is the headine of this effective article in the New York Times, which discusses some social science research starting to document some of the long-term consequences and lurking costs of mass incarceration.  Here are excerpts:

The chances of seeing a parent go to prison have never been greater, especially for poor black Americans, and new research is documenting the long-term harm to the children they leave behind.  Recent studies indicate that having an incarcerated parent doubles the chance that a child will be at least temporarily homeless and measurably increases the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior, social isolation, depression and problems in school — all portending dimmer prospects in adulthood.

“Parental imprisonment has emerged as a novel, and distinctly American, childhood risk that is concentrated among black children and children of low-education parents,” said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at the University of Michigan who is studying what some now call the “incarceration generation.”

Incarceration rates in the United States have multiplied over the last three decades, in part because of stiffer sentencing rules.  At any given moment, more than 1.5 million children have a parent, usually their father, in prison, according to federal data.  But many more are affected over the course of childhood, especially if they are black, new studies show.

Among those born in 1990, one in four black children, compared with one in 25 white children, had a father in prison by age 14.  Risk is concentrated among black children whose parents are high-school dropouts; half of those children had a father in prison, compared with one in 14 white children with dropout parents, according to a report by Dr. Wildeman recently published in the journal Demography.

For both blacks and whites, the chances of parental incarceration were far higher than they were for children born just 12 years earlier, in 1978.

Scholars agree that in some cases children may benefit from a parent’s forced removal, especially when a father is a sexual predator or violent at home.  But more often, the harm outweighs any benefits, studies have found.

If a parent’s imprisonment deprives a struggling family of earnings or child support, the practical consequences can be fairly clear-cut.  While poor urban children had a 3 percent chance of experiencing a period of homelessness over the previous year, those with an incarcerated parent had a 6 percent chance, one study found.

Quantifying other effects of parental incarceration, like aggressive behavior and depression, is more complex because many children of prisoners are already living in deprived and turbulent environments.  But researchers using newly available surveys that follow families over time are starting to home in on the impact.

Among 5-year-old urban boys, 49 percent of those who had a father incarcerated within the previous 30 months exhibited physically aggressive behaviors like hitting others or destroying objects, compared with 38 percent of those in otherwise similar circumstances who did not have a father imprisoned, Dr. Wildeman found.

While most attention has been placed on physical aggression, a study by Sara Wakefield, a sociologist following children in Chicago, found that having a parent imprisoned was a mental-health tipping point for some.  Thus, while 28 percent of the children in her study over all experienced feelings of social isolation, depression or anxiety at levels that would warrant clinical evaluation or treatment, about 35 percent of those who had an incarcerated parent did....

With financial woes now forcing many states to rethink the relentless expansion of prisons, “this intergenerational transfer of problems should be included as an additional cost of incarceration to society,” said Sarah S. McLanahan, a sociologist at Princeton University and director of a national survey of families that is providing data for many of the new studies.

Heather Mac Donald, a legal expert at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research group, agreed that everything possible should be done to help the children of people who were incarcerated.  But Ms. Mac Donald said that it was hard to distinguish the effects of having a parent in prison from those of having a parent who is a criminal, and that any evaluation of tough sentencing policies, which she supports, had to weigh the benefits for the larger community.  “A large portion of fathers were imprisoned on violence or drug-trafficking charges,” she said.  “What would be the effects on other children in the neighborhood if those men are out there?”

July 5, 2009 at 11:54 AM | Permalink


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Want to reduce the number of children with incarcerated fathers? Tell the fathers to stop committing the crimes that land them in prison.


Posted by: texas_tiger | Jul 5, 2009 12:13:23 PM

Prof. Berman: This is ridiculous. When you quote the NY Times, you utterly destroy your credibility on the point. It is a garbage spewing, Commie propaganda front organization. They want to explode the size of government as the lawyer does.

The lawyer destroys the black family, and is coming after the white family. The family destroyer lawyer explodes the rate of bastardy. Why? Because family competes for morality and authority with central government, a wholly owned subsidiary of the criminal cult enterprise (the CCE from here). Then the family destroyer lawyer calls spanking abuse. Why? Because black folks have a Southern culture, where spanking is an effective method of child correction. This generates government jobs, by disproportionate rates of charges of abuse and child removal to white foster homes, with policy just made up by racist white lawyers.

OK. What remains are amoral bastards committing millions of crimes, with impunity, herded into black communities by the white CCE hierarchy. That is the way things are today.

Is a child better off living with his criminal father in stir, or in the house with the criminal father getting busy with crack smoking, filling the house with smoke, having a long line of crack wenches doing the nasty, and shooting people who disrespect him, holding his Nine sideways, all in front of the baby?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2009 12:21:16 PM

I do have to wonder what is the cause and what the effect here. I can easily imagine that the sorts of people with criminal tendencies would also be neglectful of the duties of child rearing. As we have gone around before personal responsibility plays a large role here. I fear we aren't going to get a handle on any of these issues as long as we allow sub-cultures where shirking such responsibility is the norm.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 5, 2009 12:52:38 PM

Soronel Haetir --

Correct, sir. What is harmful to children is the behavior of the father/boyfriend that sends him to prison; the imprisonment is a secondary effect.

How many of these father/boyfriends wound up incarcerated for domestic violence? For child abuse? For contributing to the deliquency of a minor? For possessing illegal and dangerous drugs where a child could get to them? For possessing a firearm where the child could get to it? For possession/distribution of child pornography?

Not that the more usual sorts of crimes (theft, burglary, assault and battery, etc.) are marvelous examples for children either.

No sensible person is about to believe that it's beneficial to children to have a violent and/or druggie and/or sexually predatory father around the house.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 5, 2009 1:56:52 PM

If you breed two German shepherds, it would be absolutely shocking to get a golden retriever puppy. Breed a delinquent, ultraviolent, ultra-hyper garbage bag male (because they move from house to house, get thrown out by the female they have inseminated, and carry their belongings all in a garbage bag) with a female who is ultra-violent, ultra-hyper herself, wouldn't it be shocking if the spawn were not a little agitated by genetic load alone? That is something the left wing ideologue in that ridiculously biased left wing Commie propaganda rag left out.

By the way, Prof. Berman, you may be surprised to learn, blacks have the same rate of anti-social personality disorder as whites. Their burden of high crime victimization comes 100% courtesy of the racist white lawyer, that devalues black victims and herds the criminals into the neighborhoods of black folks. Also, you may be surprised to learn, black folks are as hurt as white ones if their loved ones are murdered.

You may also be surprised to learn, blacks have a lower rate of substance abuse than whites. The pestilence of the crack houses in black areas is courtesy of the racist white lawyer. Imagine what would happen if a crack house opened in your lawyer residential area. The police would show up blasting. The death penalty would be at the scene, with no excessive force litigation. End of that.

The black family survived slavery, war, lynchings, discrimination, poverty. It could not survive the all out attack of the white racist lawyer hierarchy.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2009 4:02:31 PM

The last 3 posts are tied together. They are

1. "In Prisoners’ Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids"
2. Why should a serial killer be offered a deal to avoid any real punishment for multiple murders?
3. What to the American imprisoned is the Fourth of July?

Here is a quote from Eugene D. Williams, former Chief Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County:

In a world where living has become most complex, were nerves are keyed to a higher pitch; where spiritual values have been entirely forgotten; where religion has been displaced by a pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-scientific conglomerations of half-baked superficialities which individuals are pleased to call their "philosophies of life"; in a world where there are no ethics expect that of "not getting caught"; where there is no set principle of right and wrong, where children are brought into the world and educated according to the principle that a child should be permitted to express its own personality without restriction; where discipline and self-restraint and consideration for the rights of others are neglected as old-fashioned and too difficult; in a world where the philosophy that asserts that "I'll try anything once" is considered a satisfactory attitude for the young and inquiring mind; in a world where there is too little religion and too much idle time; there has developed a startling and dangerous increase in sex prevision.

This world was mid-1950s, BW (before Warren) and therefore before Earl Warren destroyed America (unless you think Brown destroyed America.)

The point is that conservatives have been driving that same nail in the coffin for years and years, even during the Golden Age of the 50s. It hasn't worked. Washington State did a study and found at home nursing programs for at risk mothers prevented crime and therefore victimation, and it could save enough money to forego building another prison, and it saved lives. Common sense.

"My poor childhood" is not an excuse, but it is a cause we can do something about. These fatherless kids are more likely to commit crimes, which means more victims. Hansen, the Canadian researcher most respected in the field, found a negative relationship with Mother a better predictor of recidivism than is psychopathy. Kibee was once The Fledgling Psychopath. ("For police, there was another red flag: Kibbe's wife Harriett was reportedly domineering and mean. She kept him in line, seemingly just another version of his mother. This would likely feed his anger against women.") Despite this, that article argues psychopaths are born that way. If so, all the conservative claptrap is useless. Society is not to blame. If not, the Washington study is right and family matters. Which is it? Do we care?

Posted by: George | Jul 5, 2009 4:14:10 PM

George: I have no idea what you are trying to say. Repeat yourself in a simple declarative sentence. Subject, verb, predicate. Period.

I know exactly what Berman is saying. It is simple and crystal clear. Free the prisoners, to increase crime and lawyer employment. Period.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2009 4:20:50 PM

S. Clause, thanks for the lessons on logical sentence construction. In a simple sentence:

Reliance on punishment or the death penalty is too little too late because any preventable damage is done by then.

Posted by: George | Jul 5, 2009 4:35:01 PM

George. I don't think you read the posters carefully enough. There is no preventable damage. SC as usual hit the nail right on the head. It's genetic flaws. And everybody knows what you do with a bad bitch who has a hunger for blood. You but that dog down, with a bullet to the head. 123D.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 5, 2009 6:04:34 PM

George: Sorry. I wanted to clearly understand what you were saying. It seemed important.

Your assertion is not true. Each repeat offender commits dozens if not hundreds of crimes a year. Nor are criminals specialists. The shop lifter can be a rapist. The burglar can be a serial killer. That is why the nature of the felony does not matter, just the number. The earlier the execution or other incapacitation, the more crimes not committed. That is the sole value of the criminal law to the public, the funder and payer of the rent.

Punishment, retribution, even justice are immature, obsolete values from Scholasticism, worth nothing to the owner of the law, the public. The origin of and affiliation of Scholasticism with a church makes all its tenets, including the core doctrines of the law unconstitutional, offending the Establishment Clause. These are supernatural and unlawful even if the affiliation with a church is overlooked. For example, the word, intent, is not a fact of nature. Intent does not exist in nature. Cause does not exist. These are religious, supernatural concept words, as the word, soul, is.

I compliment you on your response. Prof. Berman occasionally deigns to reply to requests for tiny clarification, and only by lawyers. We, the owners of the law, are never good enough for replies to defend indefensibly biased posts. He only reads lying left wing material so as to not disrupt his cozy, lawyer world view with a fact. I have no doubt, that is how his and all other law prof classes are run. Nary a discouraging fact is every presented by students, all nice, fully intimidated, obedient criminal cult recruits, looking forward only to their share of the rent and to no other purpose of the law. No one will question the psychotically delusional beliefs in the supernatural of the lawyer academic. And patriotic or conservative students are hounded and made to feel like freaks, while it is the professors who are psychotic freaks, intimidating modern students into swallowing Medieval garbage doctrines.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2009 6:05:11 PM

S. Clause, the logical conclusion of your argument is that Kibbe should have got LWOP or the death penalty for stealing underwear from clotheslines when he was a minor.

Do you really believe that? Even if we wanted to, could we afford to put every delinquent minor in prison for life just in case he/she might become a serial killer?

123D = 1 victim, 2 victims 3 victims then Dead.

Why not strive for 0 victims in the form of evidence-based prevention? Life would not, and will never be perfect, but isn't a significant cut in the crime victimization rate worth it when we spend it on prisons anyway?


Does prevention pay? Can an ounce of prevention avoid (at least) an ounce of cure?

Posted by: George | Jul 5, 2009 6:45:52 PM

Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates

Posted by: George | Jul 5, 2009 7:11:51 PM

These are government employees selling their services. Either one wants to get rid of crime, take it down to lawyer neighborhood level, or not.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2009 7:39:37 PM

What is really sad about research such as these is that they don't go far enough to getting to the core problem of why the disparate impact on minorities.

1. Black child gets caught by resource officer for smoking weed and he is sent to court.

2. White child gets caught by resource officer for smoking weed and he is sent to court.

Black child has zero to no support system either because parents don't care, parents are working, parents are present but react differently than the sitting judge and his/her behavior is perceived as aggressive. --Black child serves 2 yrs probation or is sent to YDC, he can't attend A&D sessions because his parents do not have insurance to cover the cost.

White child is MORE LIKELY to have a support system MORE LIKELY to have parents that can take time off from work, MORE LIKELY to have parents who have health insurance, and MORE LIKELY to have parents who share the same social culture with the sitting judge. --White child serves 1 yrs probation with the option to have it revoked if he behaves for the next 90 days and must attend A&D sessions as condition to his probation.

Why do we have this disparity?

Because of policy, perception of cultural norms, lack of shared values, ineffective programs, and sometimes bigotry.

The Black kid has a record. The White kid doesn't. We all know the effects of having a record has on future encounters with police.

The Black neighborhood is saturated with police officers as there tend to be overpolicing in black neighborhoods--at always a bad thing--and Blacks are MORE likely to call the police for intervention than Whites.

What does this mean?
Police officers have MORE contact with Blacks than they do Whites and the contact is usually NOT positive. Black criminals are MORE likely to come into contact with the police than White criminals.

White neighborhoods aren't saturated with police presence and Whites are not as likely to need official intervention.

What does that mean?
Criminally minded Whites evade official detection by police unless a meth house is burning down, or a parent reports child sexual abuse, or the person is busted buying or watching child pornography online.

Ok so there is another encounter with police by these two kids--they grew up and they are now in their early 20's.

The Black guy has difficulty finding a job because he doesn't have the available social network or work experience to get a job. He's stopped by police and doesn't exchange in the way customary of a person of the same background as the police officer--he is perceived to be "different"--police are trained to notice that which is different. One thing leads to another and this guy is arrested and goes to court.

The White guy has great social network, although he doesn't have experience he is given a job by some guy that went to school with his dad. He has a job, is learning how to interact with people from different social status, brushed up on his communication skills and seems to be close in relation to moral and social values with the officer that stopped him. He comes off as being assertive but not a threat. He is given a ticket and sent on his way.

While the Black guy is in front of the judge, the judge has his internal scanner summing him up--from the way he is dressed, eye contact, speech, mannerism, and all other legal factors judges take into consideration.

There are no opportunities for pre-trial release but he goes to court, the evidence is weak and he is let go.

Guess what.
The next time he is stopped by the police for a traffic violation he will be asked to open the trunk of his car, squat and cough just to make sure he's really clean.

His past criminal history assist in convicting him even when in fact he was stopped on some bullsh*t charge.

He will serve time because of the perception that Blacks use more drugs than Whites and their is a need for social control and the most "effective" means of social control is through incarceration.

His defense attorney doesn't give a flying flip because he doesn't want to cash in on any favors as yet--after all, he may find someone more "worthy" than this defendant for which he can cash in a favor for.

So we have more Blacks incarcerated than we have Whites, although Whites may be committing the same crimes Blacks commit but do not get caught due to lack of overpolicing in their community.

It things are bad now, wait until women TRULY get what they want in terms of equality but gripe about the consequences of this equality with men.

There will be MORE Black children without parents the state will have to either raise them, or create prison communities that accommodate these children with their mother.

If there is a subculture that sees prison as "nothing but a thing" imagine what will become of children socialized to institutional living who see that being in prison "ain't nuttin but a thing" and beats the hell out of not knowing where your next meal comes from.

Be afraid. BE VERY AFRAID, you who think there are no consequences to incarcerating innocent people because you are doing society a "favor."

Posted by: Grateful | Jul 5, 2009 8:39:10 PM

Troubled kids exist in the wake of rampant illegitimacy not the effects of incarceration. Prison is a symptom not the cause of any intergenerational problem. With a non-marital birthrate approaching 70% in some communities, these "fathers" are not in the lives of their progeny from day one. The sad reality is that many kids are better off without their anti-social "father" dropping in from time to time, destabilizing an already unstable childhood.

Posted by: mjs | Jul 5, 2009 8:51:35 PM

mjs --

Spot on again. Illegitimacy and its social acceptance are the biggest catastrophe of my lifetime for children.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 5, 2009 9:06:59 PM

Why not strive for 0 victims in the form of evidence-based prevention? Life would not, and will never be perfect, but isn't a significant cut in the crime
victimization rate worth it when we spend it on prisons anyway?


I have to answer that question "no". Much better to have freedom even though some will abuse that freedom. I see no solution that could reduce the victimization rate to 0 or even close to it without putting major curbs on freedom.

As for support programs, the recipient has to want it, and I can see lots of people raising children by different or even unknown fathers letting that sort of thing slide. How do research programs account for selection effects, that the people willing to sign up for the project have more than minimal personal motivation ability?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 5, 2009 9:35:09 PM

The 0 (zero) victims was in relation to an individual who could suffer 123D. Some individuals under the program would have zero (0) victims instead. Not all of course, but enough to where building another prison would not be necessary. Whether the sample is self selected or not makes no difference. One less prison is one less prison and that many less crimes and victims. Prevention is really about opportunity. What do you guys have against evidence-based research? I suggest, and suggest very strongly, that your objection is to the potential subtraction of your power base. Punishment, and only punishment, is about as far as you can get from those evidence-based "liberal" programs that just might prevent crimes. Can't have that. More victims is better than letting the liberals win at anything.

Here is a list of Washington State's studies. If they are wrong, why? Perhaps the objection is that they are not partisan.

Posted by: George | Jul 6, 2009 1:41:07 AM

George: One should not count mala prohibita, lawyer gotchas, nor victimless crimes in 123D. The count is reserved for violent crime, unless the cost exceeds $6 million, the value of an economic life. So possession, even with intent to distribute should not count. Killing a rival dealer, pistol whipping a customer late with a payment, having your dog bite the landlord, those should count. Nor is there anything wrong with treatment, drug courts, diverting offenders to halfway houses.

Evidence based programs should have good evidence. The authors should disclose not just finances, but biases, e.g. we are left wing, America hater, extreme partisan Democrat, government job favoring Commies in academia, isolated from all real world experience and facts, and we hate black crime victims, such as little girls jumping rope in front of their homes killed in drive bys by organized, paramilitary, heavily armed illegal alien gangs doing ethnic cleansing with the forbearance of bought off politicians.

The statistics should reflect real world. Most studies use parametric statistics (based on the bell shaped curve). Its core, non-negotiable assumption is random selection. That is often violated. Beyond that, parametric statistics do a good job of representing the fractions in the bigger population. The job of a judge is to decide the fate of a single person. That decision is based on the binomial distribution (like flipping a coin). So the data cannot properly be used by the judge. This is beyond lawyer math, which stops at the 4th grade, the level needed to count money. It is 11th grade statistics course.

I support evidence based policies. I oppose garbage based policies. There is a rebuttable presumption anything the lawyer supports generates government growth, and is self-dealing. The burden is on the Commie advocate to show otherwise.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 6, 2009 7:01:37 AM

"Troubled kids exist in the wake of rampant illegitimacy not the effects of incarceration. Prison is a symptom not the cause of any intergenerational problem. With a non-marital birthrate approaching 70% in some communities, these "fathers" are not in the lives of their progeny from day one. The sad reality is that many kids are better off without their anti-social "father" dropping in from time to time, destabilizing an already unstable childhood."

Illegitimacy isn't the problem--though it is a factor that can contribute to the problem.

If illegitimacy is THE problem and legitimacy is the answer, then how do we explain criminality among intact families?

Try again. This time consider values and culture before you answer the question.

Bill, you playing sidekick to mjs is like SOOO 80's.

Posted by: Grateful | Jul 6, 2009 8:26:39 PM

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