Worse than Death – When Parents go to Jail

Did you know? With 13%, Kentucky has almost twice the national average of children who have or had a parent behind bars. When parents go to jail, the collateral damage involving those around them is enormous, damaging individuals, families, and communities. The worst suffering is inflicted on children directly. For kids, when a parent is removed and locked up, it can feel like a death or even worse due to the added societal stigma children may experience at school and in their communities. Sadly, many jails are now transitioning to ‘no visitation policies’. Clearly, alternatives to incarceration are sorely needed. Children of the incarcerated have virtually no lobby and few of us ever consider the devastating toll incarceration takes on kids. We recently felt this stigma somewhat acutely, when we issued a call for volunteers to knit some stuffed animals as gifts for our Chicas (Children of the Addicted and Incarcerated). At first, the response rate was great but when we followed up with some initially interested folks, we realized emails had been exchanged and sent out by some in an attempt to be helpful. However, in the emails, the volunteer task was referred to as ‘volunteer opportunity for children of ex-offenders‘ and guess what happened? Exactly! The interest in making the stuffed animals for the children stopped almost abruptly. Who wants to help an “ex-offender” even if it is indirectly by helping his/her child?! Children who are trying to cope with the intense grief of parental incarceration are being treated like second-class children and they feel every little bit of it.

The following article sheds some more light on the issue:


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