A report by the Center for American Progress examined five categories of family well-being in an effort to demonstrate how the obstacles associated with criminal records can have highly damaging consequences for families. The study demonstrates that these barriers result in lifelong punishment for individuals with criminal records, which, in turn, can significantly limit their children’s future.
Almost half of the children in the United States have a parent with a criminal record. Moreover, criminal record background checks are utilized by 66% of colleges, 87% of employers, and 80% of landlords. Thus, even a record for a minor offense can turn into a life sentence for poverty.
The criminal record of a parent can affect not only a child’s emotional and physical well-being but also their future economic prospects and educational outcomes. According to the study, this is true even in those cases where the parent’s record was for a minor offense that did not result in imprisonment or, in some instances, an arrest that did not even result in a conviction.
According to the report, a parent’s arrest record can affect the following five categories of well being:
Adults with criminal records have a lower earning capacity. This is because the face major difficulties obtaining employment and receiving public assistance. The average earnings loss for adult men who were formerly incarcerated is $179,000.00 by the time they reach 48 years old. Moreover, increasing a child’s annual family income by just $3,000.00 per year has been found to lead to a 17% average lifetime earnings increase for the child.
2. Savings and Assets.
High court fines, restitution payments, and attorney fees in addition to expensive child support arrears hinders the ability to save and often results in the individual being trapped in a cycle of debt. When a family has the ability to put aside even modest savings of less than $2,000.00 they are less likely to face hardships when compared to households with no savings.
As mentioned above, 66% of colleges utilize criminal background checks during the admissions process. Thus, adults with criminal records face impediments to educational and/or career training opportunities, which would increase their ability to secure a well-paying career and enable them to provide better financial support to their children. Moreover, children whose parents have obtained a high school degree or higher are more likely to finish high school themselves (30%) than the children of parents who have not obtained a high school degree (10%).
As a result of the obstacles to public and private housing these individuals face due to their criminal records, families often face housing instability. One out of five families are denied housing, face eviction, or do not qualify for public housing when a formerly incarcerated parent returns home.
5. Family Stability.
The financial and emotional difficulties associated with criminal records create challenges in the ability to maintain health relationships and stability for the family unit.
In an efforts to alleviate these intergenerational consequences, the report recommends a “two-generation approach” and provides policy recommendations. These recommendations are targeted at mitigating the burdens on adults with criminal records by removing barriers to education, housing, and employment. It also supports broadening of the availability of expungement and sealing relief and argues that automatic expungement of low-level offenses should be available after a specified period of time.
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