Nearly four in 10 children in the U.S. grew up in households in which a parent or other adult faced at least one criminal charge, were convicted of a felony or spent time in prison, a University of Michigan study shows.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics had published a much lower number, estimating that fewer than 1 in 40 children have a parent in prison in a given year.
The new study of the extent of criminal justice impacts on households was broadened to include criminal charges that do not lead to incarceration and the presence of adults in homes who have faced criminal charges in addition to parents.
“Data limitations have left us in the dark on just how many kids grow up in households with justice involvement,” said Michael Mueller-Smith of the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
Mueller-Smith believes the findings of such widespread "intergenerational exposure to crime and justice is a wake-up call to the failures of our public policy to date. Even if the justice system were completely overhauled today, we will be living with the damage done to current and former generations for decades to come.”