in the Huffington Post; and I realize this may appear tangential for Kinship & Culture, but volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center has made me see how many of these issues, especially the incarceration rate and the need to reintegrate people who have served their time, are crucial family-values issues for the most vulnerable families. These are marriage and fatherhood issues.
…Former offenders struggle when they leave prison. Sociologists Bruce Western and Devah Prager have conducted experiments (PDF) in which they’ve sent trained testers to apply for job openings. Some were told to check the box on applications indicating that they had a criminal record. The applicants were dressed similarly, and had identical levels of experience. The results? White applicants with a criminal record were half as likely to get callbacks as applicants without a record. Blacks with a criminal record were two-thirds less likely. Former offenders earn 40 percent less than someone with a similar background and experience, but no record. And they’re far less likely to increase their income over time.
An arrest without a conviction can be devastating, too. A check in the “Have you ever been arrested?” box is a handy way for an employer to winnow down a stack of job applications. Why take the risk? In New York City, half a million people are stopped and questioned by police each year without probable cause. In some communities, nine in ten residents have been stopped. Aggressive stop-and-frisk policies have lead to thousands of arrests of people who have done nothing wrong, or have been tricked by police into committing a misdemeanor.
According to Western’s research, as of 2008 about 2.6 million children had a parent in prison or jail, and by age 17, a quarter of black children will have father who has done time. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to be depressed, get into trouble at school, and drop out of school entirely.