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Supporting Students with Incarcerated Parents or Family Members

    • Supporting Students with Incarcerated Parents or Family Members

      Over 5 million U.S. children have incarcerated parents: that’s around one in 14 American children overall. Here’s a look at organizations working to support these young people and acknowledge the ripple effects of mass incarceration in American public education.

      Ongoing protests against racist police violence have brought systemic inequities in the criminal justice system to the center of public discourse. This moment makes clear the larger context of mass incarceration and its intersection with numerous facets of society, including education. One in 14 children—over 5 million children under the age of 18 across America—have parents who are currently or were formerly incarcerated. Among Black children, the number is one in nine. And for Black students ages 12-17, the number is a staggering one in seven.

      Many of these students must deal with the pain and trauma of having a parent in the criminal justice system on their own, as educators and school leaders are often ill-prepared to support them. It’s crucial to understand the impacts of mass incarceration on students and their education. It’s also important to act. According to experienced educators, encouraging students to express what they’re experiencing can be an essential first step in breaking the cycle of shame, stigma, and silence. Here, we’ve highlighted some organizations working to empower students with incarcerated parents through self-expression. 




      Locked Away: The Toll of Mass Incarceration on Students

      Learn how schools and educators can support students with incarcerated loved ones by helping young people confront the stigma and trauma attached to the criminal justice system.

      The Good Men Project

      The Good Men Project—in partnership with POPS—shares personal letters and essays that are written by students with incarcerated loved ones.

      Emerging Adult Justice Project

      In collaboration with the Echoes of Incarceration project, here is a three-part video series spotlighting the work at Columbia University’s Justice Lab.


      While you’re here check out…


      Black Lives Matter: Educational Resources

      Learn more about the Civil Rights movement, the history and sociology of racism, and what you can do to effect change in your own community.

      Confronting America’s History of Racial Injustice

      The Equal Justice Initiative gives eloquent voice to the harrowing and shameful history of racism in America, beginning with slavery and continuing through the systemic injustices of today.

      Using Restorative Circles to Have Tough Conversations

      Now is no time to shy away from difficult conversations. Restorative circles can make these conversations easier.

    • The videos by the Emerging Adult Justice Project are incredible. Created by a team of journalists who are “emerging adults” themselves, these videos explain what brain science says about the sometimes impulsive behavior of young people and how our society should respond but often doesn’t—particularly in heavily policed communities. This is great journalism! Please watch, learn, and enjoy.

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What can educators do to recognize and meet the needs of students who have family members caught up in the criminal justice system? What advice or resources do you have for others grappling with this question?

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