April 25, 2016

The High Cost of Parental Incarceration on Children

Not only is the cost of incarcerating individuals in Wisconsin high (about $1.5 billion annually), but according to a new KIDS COUNT® policy report released today, approximately 88,000 children living in Wisconsin have experienced the separation of a parent who served time in jail or prison, of more than 5 million nationally. The impacts of incarceration, the report says, can have as much impact on children’s well-being as abuse or domestic violence. These generational costs are rarely calculated as policy-makers make decisions about crime and punishment.

Casey Incarceration Report_Wisconsin_Total Number

The Casey Foundation report calls on policy makers to address both the societal and fiscal implications of mass incarceration by providing children who are suffering the consequences of their parents’ incarceration with the stability and support they need. Specific policy recommendations include:

  • Expanding strategies to reduce the flow of individuals into incarceration through strategies that focus on treatment, provide developmentally appropriate interventions and services (e.g. return 17 year olds to the juvenile system), and reduce the number of individuals returned to prison or jail for behaviors that are not new law violations;
  • Increasing the odds that individuals returning from jail or prison are able to find and maintain family-supporting employment; and
  • Focusing on strengthening communities or neighborhoods that are disproportionately affected by incarceration.


The full report is available at