April 25, 2016

One in ten New Mexico children have or had a parent in jail

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One in every ten children in New Mexico have at least one parent incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to a recent report.

Jail CellThat’s the third-highest rate in the nation and just one of three states with a rate in double digits. In raw numbers, this is 52,000 children throughout the state.

The findings came from a new Kids Count report called “A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities.”

New Mexico Voices for Children executive director Veronica C. Garcia, Ed.D., explained the reasons why this is detrimental to the youth of the state.

“Often their families lack the financial resources to cover basic needs such as food and housing. In addition, having a parent in jail or prison is emotionally traumatic. So much so, that parental incarceration is recognized as one of the adverse childhood experiences that can have long-lasting effects on a child’s development and well-being.”

The report outlines some possible steps that states can take to mitigate the effects on children.

One is to make sure there is a support system in place for families both during the incarceration and afterward. Another is to help find employment after their release. Finally, the report outlines steps to “Strengthen communities, particularly those disproportionately affected by incarceration and reentry, to promote family stability and opportunity.”

The report comes on the heels of a legislative session focused on increasing penalties for a variety of crimes. Few of these penalties passed and became law, but they are likely to figure prominently in the upcoming legislative races that will determine which party controls the House and Senate.

The report notes that while crime in New Mexico is among the highest in the nation, crime rates have actually dropped in recent years; in that same time period, incarceration rates have increased in the state.

The report also finds a racial disparity in incarceration rates. As of 2010, 2,609 of every 100,000 black residents were in jail. That’s more than double the rate of Native Americans residents (1,045 per 100,000) and Hispanic residents (980 per 100,000) and nearly four times that of white residents (659 of 100,000).

The full report is available on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website. The New Mexico fact sheet is embedded below.

  NM Incarceration Factsheet

Correction: The headline and lede initially read as if there one out of ten current children currently have a parent in jail. It should have read that one out of ten children will have a parent in jail in their lifetime. We regret the confusion and error.