Families, Children, and Housing


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Page last updated June 10, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

21. Parents in Prison

"Thirty-seven percent of parents held in state prison reported living with at least one of their children in the month before arrest, 44% reported just prior to incarceration, and 48% reported at either time (table 7). Mothers were more likely than fathers to report living with at least one child. More than half of mothers held in state prison reported living with at least one of their children in the month before arrest, compared to 36% of fathers. More than 6 in 10 mothers reported living with their children just prior to incarceration or at either time, compared to less than half of fathers.
"Parents held in federal prison were more likely than those held in state prison to report living with a child in the month before arrest, just prior to incarceration, or at either time (appendix table 7). Mothers in federal prison were more likely than fathers to report living with a child."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Aug. 2008), NCJ222984, p. 4.

22. Parents in Prison, by Offense

"Among male state prisoners, violent (47%) and property (48%) offenders were less likely to report having children than public-order (60%) and drug (59%) offenders (table 6). For women held in state prison, violent (57%) offenders were less likely than drug (63%), property (65%), and public-order (65%) offenders to be a mother.
"The prevalence of being a parent differed by gender and offense for inmates held in state and federal prisons. For state inmates, female (65%) property offenders were more likely to be a parent than male (48%) property offenders. In federal prison, male (69%) drug offenders were more likely than female (55%) drug offenders to report having children.
"Among men held in federal prison, drug offenders (69%) were more likely than property (54%) and violent (50%) offenders to report having children (appendix table 5). Public-order offenders (62%) were also more likely than violent offenders to report having children. For women in federal prison, the likelihood of being a mother did not differ by offense."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2009), NCJ222984, p. 4.

23. Parents in Prison

"Mothers in state prison (58%) were more likely than fathers (49%) to report having a family member who had also been incarcerated (table 11). Parents in state prison most commonly reported a brother (34%), followed by a father (19%). Among mothers in state prison, 13% reported a sister and 8% reported a spouse. Six percent of fathers reported having a sister who had also been incarcerated; 2%, a spouse.
"While growing up, 40% of parents in state prison reported living in a household that received public assistance, 14% reported living in a foster home, agency, or institution at some time during their youth, and 43% reported living with both parents most of the time (appendix table 11). Mothers (17%) held in state prison were more likely than fathers (14%) to report living in a foster home, agency, or institution at some time during their youth. Parents in federal prison reported lower percentages of growing up in a household that received public assistance (31%) or living in a foster home, agency, or institution (7%). These characteristics varied little by gender for parents held in federal prison.
"More than a third (34%) of parents in state prison reported that during their youth, their parents or guardians had abused alcohol or drugs. Mothers in state prison (43%) were more likely than fathers (33%) to have had this experience. Fewer parents (27%) in federal prison reported having a parent or a guardian who had abused alcohol or drugs."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2009), NCJ222984, p. 7.

24. Public Housing Authorities and the "One Strike" Policy

Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) in the US operate under a "One Strike" policy regarding drug use that is so over-reaching that even drug use by a guest can be grounds for eviction. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, "The 1998 amendments of the 1996 Extension Act provisions on ineligibility of illegal drug users and alcohol abusers confirm that a PHA or owner may deny admission or terminate assistance for the whole household that includes a person involved in the proscribed activity. With respect to a PHA or owner's discretion to consider rehabilitation for a household member with the offending substance abuse problem, the rule would permit a PHA or owner to hold the whole household responsible for that member's successful rehabilitation as a condition for continued occupancy and avoidance of eviction."

Federal Register, "One-Strike Screening and Eviction for Drug Abuse and Other Criminal Activity," Vol. 64, No. 141, Friday, July 23, 1999, p. 40266.

25. Permanent Bans on Public Housing for Drugs

"In determining eligibility for Section 8 and other federally assisted housing, the Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act of 199640 and the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 199841 require local housing authorities to permanently bar individuals convicted of certain sex offenses and methamphetamine production on public housing premises.42 The federal laws also give local public housing agencies discretion to deny eligibility to virtually anyone with a criminal background, including: 1) people who have been evicted from public, federally assisted, or Section 8 housing because of drug-related criminal activity for three years; and 2) anyone who has engaged in any drug-related criminal activity, any violent criminal activity, and other criminal activity that would adversely affect the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises.43 Local housing agencies have the authority to: 1) identify which crimes make an applicant ineligible for public housing; 2) decide whether they will consider arrests not leading to conviction in eviction proceedings; 3) decide how long to deny housing assistance to people with criminal records; and 4) determine what, if anything, qualifies as rehabilitation for purposes of lifting the bars to public housing. Thus, local authorities have wide discretion in determining how restrictive, or inclusive, their policies regarding admission of people with criminal records will be."

Mukamal, Debbie A. and Samuels, Paul N., " Statutory Limitations on Civil Rights of People with Criminal Records." Fordham Urban Law Journal (New York, NY: Fordham University, 2002) Volume 30, Issue 5, p. 1506.

26. Impact of Drug Testing for TANF Benefits

"Few proposals [to drug test applicants and recipients of TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] suggest child well-being improvements as a result of drug testing, though provisions for protective payees for children’s benefits are intended to ensure funds are spent on children’s needs. Proposals that sanction families by definition reduce the income available to the family and may therefore decrease child well?being. Sanctions and benefit decreases have been shown to increase the risk that children will be hospitalized and face food insecurity.42 An Idaho analysis also suggests that children may be harmed unintentionally by drug testing programs because parents may refuse to apply for benefits knowing they will face drug testing or may refuse to complete treatment.43 On the other hand, deterrent effects of drug testing may lead welfare applicants to reduce drug use, with potential positive effects for children."

"Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: Recent Proposals and Continuing Controversies," Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (Washington, DC: October 2011), p. 8.

27. Denial of Education Benefits

"The Higher Education Act of 1965,1 as amended, provides for the suspension of certain federal higher education benefits to students who have been convicted for the possession or sale of a controlled substance under federal or state law.2 The controlled substance offense may be either a felony or a misdemeanor. Federal higher education benefits that are denied to such individuals include student loans, Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and the Federal Work-Study program.3
"The Higher Education Act [HEA] provision outlines different periods for which such drug offenders are ineligible to receive certain federal higher education benefits, depending upon the type and number of controlled substance convictions. The period of ineligibility begins on the date of conviction and ends after a specified interval."

"Drug Offenders: Various Factors May Limit the Impacts of Federal Laws That Provide for Denial of Selected Benefits," United States Government Accountability Office (Washington, DC: September 2005) GAO-05-238, p. 51.

28. Reform of Higher Education Act Drug Offender Provision

"In early 2006, SSDP and our allies forced Congress to scale back the law, so that only people who are convicted while in college and receiving financial aid will have their eligibility taken away. Now, people who got convicted before they decided to go to college will be able to move on with their lives and earn an education.
"During the Higher Education Act Reauthorization process of 2008, Congress further scaled back the penalty, making it easier for students with drug convictions to regain eligibility for financial aid. Previously, students had to complete a government-approved treatment program, which are often more expensive than tuition at state universities or community colleges. Now, students have to pass two unannounced drug tests administered by a government-approved treatment program, without completing the program itself.
"Unfortunately, college students who get convicted will still lose their aid, and many of them will have to drop out. Statistics and common sense tell us that it simply doesn’t make sense to pull students out of school if we want to reduce drug abuse and encourage young people to become successful citizens.
"In July 2009, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Removing Impediments to Students’ Education (RISE) Act into the 111th Congress. The bill, which has substantial support, would simply repeal the aid elimination penalty.
"In September 2009, The House passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which included language that would repeal the Aid Elimination Penalty for students convicted of drug possession offenses. If this becomes law, only students convicted of drug distribution offenses will lose their aid eligibility. Rep. Souder (R-IN) attempted to introduce an amendment that would roll back this reform. Ultimately, in the face of overwhelming opposition to his amendment, he withdrew it."

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, "The Higher Education Act: Be Sensible - Stop the War on Higher Education," last accessed August 28, 2013.

29. Risk Factors for Substance Use by Young People

"The risk factors were stronger predictors of substance use outcomes compared to the protective factors, regardless of grade level or substance use type. In particular, the individual and peer risk factors were strongly related to lifetime and recent use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Among the protective factors, the strongest associations with substance use were found in the community domain. Several age-related differences in the associations were also found, suggesting that family and community factors were more salient among younger grades whereas peer and school factors were stronger among older adolescents."

Michael J. Cleveland, Ph.D; Mark E. Feinberg, Ph.D.; Daniel E. Bontempo, Ph.D.; and Mark T. Greenberg, Ph.D., "The Role of Risk and Protective Factors in Substance Use across Adolescence," Journal of Adolescent Health, (August 2008); 43(2): 157–164.

30. Family Ties

"Compared to teens in families with strong Family Ties, teens in families with weak Family Ties are:
"• Four times likelier to have tried tobacco;
"• Four times likelier to have tried marijuana; and
"• Almost three times likelier to have tried alcohol."

Knowledge Networks and QEV Analytics, "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VX: Teens and Parents" (New York, NY: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, August 2010), p. 3.