Whilst our government continues to consider jail time as an option for parents, whether it be for the non payment of fines to the more serious crimes of neglect, it would do well to consider this latest study.

The study, which was carried out by University of California Irvine, and presented at the American Sociological Association annual meeting, discovered that there was a direct link for children between having a parent in jail and suffering with conditions like asthma, obesity, attention deficit/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and anxiety. It was also related to learning disabilities, developmental delays, and speech or language problems.

The research also discovered that parents’ jail time is strongly associated with ADHD and ADD in children – more so than those experiencing their parent’s divorce or the death of a parent. The research has been criticised by one psychiatrist, however pre-existing data highlights the reality that children with an incarcerated parent are more likely to suffer poorer outcomes than their counterparts – those children who do not experience having a parent in jail.

We already know, from data sourced in the UK, that children suffer when their parents are sent to jail. And whilst no one is suggesting that parents who commit crimes should be given preferential treatment, once we start to look at the reasons behind these crimes, we begin to understand that the concept of punishment is pointless.

What we need to be doing is looking at the reasons behind the commission of the crime, restoring the victim as far as is humanly possible and finding ways to ensure that the likelihood of re-offending is reduced significantly. And most importantly, that the crime does not produce a ripple effect which impacts on any children involved.

If only our government could think like that.




and is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.