A Parent's Criminal Record has a Lifelong Impact…on Their Children

On December 10, 2015 , the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report entitled “Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children, A Two-Generation Approach.” This report is the first to focus on the lifelong impact a parent’s criminal record has on their children.

According to the CAP Report, nearly 50% of American children have one or more parent with a criminal record. This number is staggering.

The report examines 5 pillars of family well-being: income, savings and assets, education, housing, and family strength and stability. In each category, a parent’s criminal record has a negative impact on family outcomes. It is clear from this report (and common sense) that a parent’s criminal record can hold back an entire family, resulting in multi-generational poverty. But we can do something about that.

So what is the solution? We cannot do away with our criminal system or the purpose it serves, but we also need to recognize that the people involved in the criminal system do not exist in a vacuum. They have families. They have children, and no study is needed to know that a child’s well-being is linked to their parent’s well-being.

The report is clear. We need to remove and dismantle the barriers to opportunity. We don’t have to forget about a parent’s mistake in order to give them the opportunity to move past that mistake. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Are we satisfied with the policies in place to support these individuals in moving past their criminal history – not just for their sake, but for the sake of their children?”

The Center for American Progress makes a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • Expand opportunities for record sealing, expungement, or other clean slate remedies for juvenile, low-level and non-violent offenses
  • Remove barriers to employment with policies such as “Ban the Box”
  • Remove the lifetime felony drug ban on TANF and SNAP benefits
  • Reform criminal justice debt and modernize child support enforcement
  • Remove barriers to housing, such as public housing “One Strike” policies and adopt fair housing policies for private housing markets
  • Remove barriers to education and job training

SC Appleseed supports these recommendations. By enacting these reforms, parents with a criminal record and their children would be more likely to move out of the multi-generational cycles of poverty that too often go hand in hand with even a minor record. We hope that by working together, we can give all South Carolinians the opportunities they deserve.

Curious to learn more about the collateral consequences of a criminal record in South Carolina?

Check out SC Appleseed’s guide that outlines some of the major Collateral Consequences as well as some tools to help overcome these barriers. Another great resource is the American Bar Association’s tool that enumerates the specific collateral consequences in SC and other states.

For a visual look at the report, check out CAP’s infographic below. Click for a full-size version.