How does the criminal justice system affect children with parents who are incarcerated?

     Throughout my research it became more difficult than I believed it would be and it was not easy to find information that would be pertinent to my research. I found many impacts on the child that ranged from physical and emotional depending on the type of absence from the parental figure. There were many cases where either the parent was completely absent or more complex cases where the parent was repeatedly absent during periods of the child’s life.  In order to create a meaningful response to this question I took into consideration a lot on the child themselves and the affects it has on their mental stability and physical state, the parent or parents influence on the child, as well as the criminal justice system itself and how someone is driven to partake in criminal activity. These three topics became the whole of my research and conveyed to me the answer I formed. A parent is believed to be a figure in a child’s life that provides care, love and affection for that infant but without that influence and guide what may become of the child. When a parent is confined and imprisoned, the criminal justice systems makes it impossible for that authority to be applicable in the child’s life. Depending on certain circumstances should the child have the power to communicate with their father or mother or does the crime over weigh the parents capability to with stand responsibility and care? Could visitation negatively affect the child more than complete isolation from the parent?

      In my first round of research I looked carefully through the criminal justice system, attempting to understand it more. I asked questions like what is the criminal justice system and how does it affect criminals? What is the mindset of a criminal? What are different types of criminal justice? How can being in jail affect a person’s mind? Why do people become criminals?  In order to understand the position of the parent I did research during my first round on the lifestyle of incarceration and the mental health affects it might have on a human being. Prisoners rarely, if ever, get therapy or comprehensive treatment, so mental health issues that we’re previously controlled with medication and therapy may get much worse during incarceration.(5) The mental state of a parent can gravely affect the child and make it difficult to sustain a living around an unstable idol. The criminal justice system is comprised of three major institutions which process a case from inception, through trial, to punishment.(4) Although jail time might seem like a distant possibility for most people, incarceration rates in the United States are steadily rising. One study published in the journal Pediatrics found that 41% of young adults have been arrested by the time they are 23.(5)

     A lot of children experiencing the absence of a main influence begin to develop a sense of emotional numbness, or of being ’emotionally dead’ and in future feel a great deal of EMOTIONAL NEGLECT. (1)(2) In conditions where parents are incarcerated, I also thought about how the criminal acidity would affect the child. Some research revealed that children of criminal parents had a 2.4 times higher chance of falling into crime than children without criminal parents. (3) I collected this information during my second round of research asking questions like How having an absent parent and a constant criminal influence can affect a child physically and emotionally? How can absent parents affect their child negatively? What are the emotional affects of an absent parent on a child? With help from my peers I created even more questions and responses that helped my research progress, revealing more about my subject. Some of the information I found astonishing and it helped me stay intrigued but I also found this round was the most important and beneficial to my research. Another factor that becomes heavy in the situations of incarceration is alienation of the other parent. Many children also in this situation endue severe effects of parental alienation which has well-documented—low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. (6)

     My third round of research was difficult and it became complicated in order to find interesting information that created a new side to the question. I feel this round could have been improved but I was still able to find research. My third round consisted of many questions circling What affect can incarceration have on the relationship between a criminal and their child? And than questions like how do children visit incarcerated parents? Are children with parents in jail more likely to develop mental health problems? Do judges take into consideration children when sentencing a criminal? Should children visit incarcerated parents? Visitation can be an important and meaningful experience for incarcerated parents and their children, but it can also be a source of stress and anxiety when parents’ or children’s expectations do not align with what ends up happening. Many aspects of visitation are outside of the control of an incarcerated parent, but there are things you can do to anticipate problems and reduce stress to make visitation a positive and beneficial experience for everyone involved. (7)(8) Studies have shown that most children manage the crisis of a parent being incarcerated better when they visit their parents. While not visiting may seem easier on their emotions in the short run, in the long run it may not be. (9)

      All my research has lead me to believe that there are infinite influences to how the criminal justice system can affect a child with a parent or parents who are incarcerated. One of the main focuses of my research was the affect on a child’s mind and physical state. Children without the continuous care from a parent begin to develop problems like low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. These problems can begin during childhood and follow these innocent children through their future and old age. Though these children endure this great loss I also found that there is a lot of support for children with incarcerated parents. Though there are many negative aspects to the criminal justice system I believe that with help and support from positive influencers these affects on children can be diminished and transformed into a more constructive outcome.  

  1. https://childhoodtraumarecover...arents-on-the-child/


Original Post

Hey Sienna!

Wow! What an in-depth and thought-out summary, bravo! It was really interesting for me to follow along with your research and I believe this post did a great job of summing up your cycle. Congratulations on finishing your first cycle here on Butterfly Effect. I suggest you continue on with this topic in your next cycle if it still intrigues you/if you think there is more to research.

Again, great job!


Hey @Sienna Saunders (Charles Best)

I agree with Heeva's point, this was a really well written post with full of details! Covering all the aspects of research and information you have found out. Its been an interesting journey reading your research rounds and learning about this particular topic! It was super unique and glad you learned like I did from reading your rounds! 

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Nice going! 


Hi Sienna, 

Like Jim and Heeva said, you did a fantastic job in summarizing your inquiry cycle in this post. Your topic was very unique to me, and I feel like a lot of readers could also relate on a personal level. You seem very eager and confident in your work, so I suggest you should think of continuing this in your next cycle. I enjoyed reading your research! 

Best of luck Sienna!

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