By TRC Staff
Children whose parents are incarcerated are the “invisible victims of mass incarceration,” and judges and corrections authorities need to pay special attention to the emotional trauma and financial burdens they encounter, argues a new paper in the Maryland Law Review.
Amy B. Cyphert, author of the study, and a lecturer at the West Virginia University College of Law Lecturer, said research offered several pathways that provided a “ray of hope” for young people when one or both parents was behind bars.
Providing a more “positive experience” during the visits of children to the facilities where a parent was held has also been shown to reduce recidivism rates among offenders, she wrote. According to Cyphert, children often resist going to facilities because of the stigma involved.
Cyphert recommended that judges in the federal system order that “Family Impact Statements” be included into a defendant’s presentence report, using what she described as “a heretofore largely unused ‘catchall provision’ of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.”
The author admitted that such impact statements, which provide information that assesses the “financial, social, psychological, and medical impact on the defendant’s family, especially any minor children,” have encountered resistance from some who might see them as a means of allowing offenders to escape responsibility for their crimes.
But she noted that “states that have adopted the practice, even on a trial basis, have reported encouraging results,” citing for example New York.