Incarceration not only affects the offenders but also their families and communities. Gene Mills and Pat Nolan argue for reform in The Advertiser after viewing the negative effects children experience when they have incarcerated fathers.
Around 2.5 million children nationwide and 94,000 children in Louisiana have had at least one parent incarcerated in their lifetimes, and the effects can be devastating.
Children who have had an incarcerated parent have higher rates of homelessness and more social and academic difficulties than their peers. Worse, many children fall into the same paths as their parents and end up behind bars themselves.
The authors argue that although career and violent criminals should be incarcerated, separating non-dangerous criminals from their families is not necessary to hold them accountable for their crimes or to preserve public safety. Alternatives include specialized courts for certain types of offenders, probation, and improved re-entry programs to reduce recidivism.
Alternatives to incarceration can strengthen communities and prevent future criminal activity by either the offenders or their children.