Mass incarceration- What is it costing us and our children?
MASS INCARCERATION — WHAT IS IT COSTING US AND OUR CHILDREN?
I. WHAT IS IT COSTING US:
Former Attorney General Eric Holder stated in 2013 that the problem with the federal sentencing system is the "outsized, unnecessary large prison population", and that "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason" /1/.
Four years later, we are still waiting for the prison reform. The House Judiciary
Committee cannot move ahead with it without knowing President Trump's position on criminal justice reform /2/.
Meanwhile, mass incarceration requires immediate attention. One in 110 of adult
US residents, a total of over 2.2 million people are incarcerated at a cost of
$ 80 billion per year. Two thirds of them are held in state and federal prisons /3, 4/.
Federal prisons alone cost $ 6.8 billion annually, according to March 2016 Inspector
General report. This cost can be significantly reduced. As of February 2017, according to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) statistics, the number of federal inmates approached
190,000. 11% of federal prisoners are held in camps, and have "out—custody" BOP status. They are non—violent, first—time offenders, either "white—collar", serving often lengthy sentences — physicians, accountants, secretaries, business owners, or people with low—end drug—related charges.
Because the federal inmates are already "out—custody", the camps have no fence, and the inmates are trusted by the government to remain at the camp within the invisible boundaries. These people present no danger to the community. Men can spend up to 10 years in camps — if they are sentenced for longer time, they spend the initial portion of their sentence in the low—security prisons. Women, however, can spend as long as 25 years in a camp. Each inmate costs, on the average, about
$ 31,000 to the community annually /5/, which is comparable to an annual college tuition.
The current federal camp population is approaching 22,000 inmates, out of them over 4,000 are women. The human potential of these men and women is wasted, and instead of contributing to the society, they burden it. The well—educated inmates are equally wasting their time. Instead of having M.D.s working in the kitchen,
M.B.A.s raking leafs, accountants cleaning the showers And Ph.D.s cleaning the bathrooms in camps, the government could have used these people to perform valuable and free services for the community by placing them under home confinement and ordering them to perform community service. In fact, it is easier to walk away from a camp without the fence, than violate home confinement while wearing an ankle monitor. However, currently only 2% of the federal inmates are under home confinement.
The price of federal camps alone amounts to over half a billion dollars each year, based on most conservative estimates. This expenditure is unnecessary. Keeping non-violent "out—custody" inmates in camps, providing them three meals a day, medical care, and employing personnel to count and re—count these inmates 4-5 times a day is a waste of money. If these camp inmates were kept instead under home confinement with GPS monitors, allowed to work and raise their children, not only they would pay for their monitors, food and medical care, they would also be able to pay their restitution to the government. Restitution can reach multimillion dollar figures for some of the white—collar camp inmates. It was ordered by the judges, but it is not paid while these inmates are incarcerated.
II. WHAT IS MASS INCARCERATION COSTING OUR CHILDREN:
Mass incarceration created an epidemic of parental deprivation of children.
Statistics /6/ shows, that out of 2.2 million incarcerated adults, 1.2 million are parents of minor children under age 17 /7/. There are 2.7 million children in
USA who have one or both incarcerated parents /8/. This is 1 in 28 children, up from 1 in 125 children just 25 years ago. Think about it — on the average, in every classroom in a US school there is a child whose life is affected by parental incarceration, and whose family is destroyed. Worse yet, half of these children are under 10 years old /9/.
Parental incarceration is now recognized as an "adverse childhood experience", distinguished from other adverse experiences by the unique combination of trauma, shame and stigma /10/. About 10 million children in the US have experienced parental incarceration in their lifetime /ll/.
Let us take a closer look at what happens to these children. When the father is incarcerated, 90% of the children remain with their mothers, 2% enter foster care.
When the mother is incarcerated, 25% of the children live with their fathers,
50% live with their grandparents, and 10% enter foster care /12, 13/. Incarcerated parents risk losing their parental rights, with the Adoption and Safe Families Act initiating termination of parental rights after 15 months of incarceration /14/.
Now, if one looks at the non—violent offenders, their charges typically are unrelated to their parental duties. Most often these people are good parents. Some of these incarcerated parents are appealing their convictions and sentences, but the appeal process takes years, during which their children remain separated from them. Studies show the detrimenatal effect of such separation /10/. And even if the parent wins the appeal, these years of separation create irreparable damage in the psyche and emotional makeup of a child.
Our prized justice system does not even consider the fact of having minor children when sentencing the parent. This is the law. Thus, 28 U.S.C.S. 994(e), describing the duties of the Sentencing Commission, states:
"The Commission shall assure that the guidelines..., in recommending a term of imprisonment, or length of a term of imprisonment, reflect the general
INAPPROPRIATENESS OF CONSIDERING...FAMILY TIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE
In other words, during the sentencing of a parent, the destiny of a minor innocent child is not even a factor for consideration.
One would think that the rights of a child of incarcerated parent(s) should be protected by the Constitution. Not so. While the rights of "family integrity" are supposedly protected by the 14th Amendment under the due process clause for both parents /15/ and children /16/, this "familial right to be raised and nurtured by their parents" is considered not applicable to the children of incarcerated parents:
"...so long as the detention (of a parent) is lawful, that so—called deprivation of the right to family integrity does not violate the constitution. To rule otherwise would risk turning every lawful detention or arrest of a parent into a substantive due process claim... Were a substantial number of young children knowingly placed in harm's way, it is easy to imagine how valuable claims might lie" /17/.
But you would think that 2.7 million children CAN be considered a "substantial number"! How more substantial should it get for the justice system to actually notice that the mass incarceration of parents IS hurting their children?
With mass incarceration starting in 1980s, the number of women in prisons increased almost 600%, and currently exceeds 200,000 women /18/. And 120,000 of these women have minor children /7/.
Even when a mother's incarceration is erroneous, the child's deprivation of the parent—child relationship is considered "collateral injury", "not personal to the injured party" /19/. A child who grew up without a mother, because she spent over
20 years in prison due to erroneous conviction, is not considered to be personally injured.
The courts say that while
"the substantive due process right to family integrity is now well established,
...to amount to a violation of substantive due process...the harmful conduct must SHOCK THE CONSCIENCE 0R OFFEND THE COMMUNITY'S SENSE 0F FAIR PLAY AND
Logically, 2.7 million children, deprived of their right to be nurtured and raised by their parents should indeed be shocking enough, and the "community's sense of decency" should be offended by the sheer proportion of this outrage. The community should know about it and speak up.
While the government claims that it has interest "in the welfare of children as future citizens" /21/, and mentions to have "national interests in preserving family integrity" /22/, at the moment the justice system deprives millions of children of their parents, without a second thought about it, and conveniently, without violating their constitutional rights.
It is time to urge the President and the Congress to pass a meaningful prison reform and reserve prisons for violent criminals, presenting a danger to society.
It is time to acknowledge the rights of the millions of children of incarcerated parents, the most vulnerable group of yound US citizens who "lack the capacity to protect their own interests" /23/, and who are currently mute and invisible to the justice system.
Everyone understands that it will take a long time to change the judicial system.
But an executive order by the President can save over half a billion dollars per year by abolishing the camps and placing 22,000 non-violent, "out—custody" camp inmates under home confinement. Consequently, this will restore over 10,000 families and return parents to over 20,000 children. It is up to the community to make it happen.
1. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association's House of Delegates, cited in: US v. Webster, 820 F.3d 944 (8th Cir., 9016)
2. "House waiting for Trump's Guidance on Criminal Justice", Criminal Law Reporter volume 100, No 18, p. 393
3. US Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2013
4. L. Glaze. Correctional Population in the U.S. 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Washington, D.D 2011
5. "The Price of Prisons". Vera Institute, 2010
National Resource Center on Children & Families of the Incarcerated. Rutgers
University Camden, N.J.
L. Glaze, L. Maruschak. Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, D.C. 2011
Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Motility. The Pew Charitable
Trusts: Pew Center on the States. Washington, D.C. 2010
M. Mauer, A. Nellis, S. Schirmir. Incarcerated Parents and Their Children
— Trends 199102007. The Sentencing Project, 2009
C.F. Hairston. Focus on the children with incarcerated parents: an overview of the research literature. Annie E. Casey Foundadtion, 2007 http://www.sentencingproject.org. 2009
D. Philips et al. Children, Families and the Criminal Justice System. A Research
Brief. Center for Social Policy and Research. University of Illinois, Chicago, 2007
Mumola. Incarcerated Parents and Their Children. NCJ—182335. Washington,
D US Department of Justice, 2000
M. Raimon, A. Lee, P. Genty. Sometimes Good Intentions Yield Bad Results:
ASFA's Effect on Incarcerated Parents and Their Children. 2009
Troxel V. Granville, 530 US 57, 65, 120 S Ct 2054, 147 L. Ed, 2d 49 (2000)
D.B. V. Cardall, 826 F.3d 721 (4th Cir., 2016)
Aguilar V. US Immigration & Custom Enforcement Div. of DHS, 510 F.3d 1 (1st Cir.,
Lefever V. Ferguson, 645 Fed. Appx 438 (6th Cir., 2016)
Rosenbaum V. Washoe Cnty, 654 F.3d 1001 (9th Cir., 2011)
Burney V. Carrick, US All. LEXIS 41343 (5th Cir., 1999)
29 U.S.C.S Section 2601 '
Smith V. Organization of Foster Families, 431 US 816, 53 L. Ed. 2d 14,
97 S. Ct. 2094 (1977)
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