Having an incarcerated parents is an adverse childhood experience

The CDC recently released a report indicating that about 16% of adults have experienced 4 or more ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences. One of these ACEs is growing up with a parent or other household member who goes to jail or prison. Experiencing multiple ACEs can put a person at risk for a host of health and mental health problems. In their report, the CDC estimated how ACEs can contribute to concerns. They found that ACEs related to “poorer health outcomes, health risk behaviors, and socioeconomic challenges.” If ACEs were prevented, significant reductions in problems could occur, for example 23.9% for heavy drinking and 44.1% for depression.

One way to reduce a child’s exposure to ACEs is to prevent parents from going to prison or jail. The Prison Policy Initiative has some great ideas about that, including: having police issue citations instead of arresting people so that parents can wait for their court data at home; states should reclassify offenses that do not threaten public safety as non-jailable infractions; divert people to other service providers before arrest (e.g., mental health facilities, substance abuse treatment centers, homeless shelters) and assure that those providers are funded; and collect data on those who are jailed frequently to determine their pattern of needs.

Read the full CDC report here: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6844e1.htm

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