TRENTON — In a society of obscure sentencing and a propensity to incarcerate criminal records reform remains high on the agenda. In New Jersey the sad statistic is that over 65,000 children have felt the loss of a parent due to incarceration. Compounding the likelihood of poverty and truancy. This asides from the emotional stress and trauma. This trend highlighted by a study released this week. Irrespective as to how alarming the figures are New Jersey’s youth are perversely in the fortunate position of being the smallest percentage nationally (incarcerated parent). The report has been prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation , a research and advocacy group for disadvantaged children. Data highlighted, from 2011>2012, confirms 3% of New Jersey children have had parents imprisoned. While Kentucky has seen 13% of children separated from parents by the judicial system. The ground swell of opinion for criminal records reform resonates even louder.
The report also highlights over five million children in the U.S. have had to deal with the loss of a parent through incarceration. The report is called A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities. The report also finds that children are left traumatized by the loss. The correlation can be likened to neglect or abuse and having endured divorce or domestic violence. Executive Director (Advocates for Children of New Jersey ) Cecilia Zalkind who together with Casey released the report said policy and law makers should consider the family turmoil in the wake of imprisonment along with criminal records reform. New Jersey has seen a reduction in it’s prison population by 26%. More should be done to support the children post separation. Casey has put forward the creation of employment programs for ex-offenders. These programs within universities and hospitals. The impact and effect on families should be factored in to sentencing. Court officials have to keep relevant social service agencies informed. In order that they can cross refer to counseling and support services.
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