In South Carolina, 73,000 children – some 7 percent of the state’s childhood population – have experienced the incarceration of a parent.
Having grown up without a father, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., says he can relate.
“I grew up in North Charleston . . . in a single-parent household, mired in poverty,” he told youth advocates Wednesday at a Capitol Hill briefing on a new report by the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation.
73,000 Children in South Carolina who have an incarcerated parent
“I just learned very quickly how easy it is to get off track,” he said. “Living in one of the more difficult ZIP codes in our country, too often the experience is that your better friends end up either incarcerated or in the grave.”
He described visiting prisons and seeing children meet their incarcerated fathers, some for the first time – now he wants to work on translating that experience into legislation. Currently he’s doing that through what he calls his “opportunity agenda,” which focuses on school choice, job training and apprenticeship in poor communities, he said.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new report highlights the impact of U.S. tough-on-crime practices on millions of children. African-American and Latino children are seven and two times more likely, respectively, to have an incarcerated parent compared with their white peers, according to the report. Kentucky has the highest rate in the country, with over 13 percent of children having a parent in jail.
Scott’s ally across the aisle on criminal justice legislation, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., joined the briefing as well.
Living in one of the more difficult ZIP codes in our country, too often the experience is that your better friends end up either incarcerated or in the grave.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
“His authentic experience just growing up the way he did . . . he himself is a pretty big success story,” Booker said about Scott.
Addressing the issues of children with parents in prison, Booker focused on the problem of mass incarceration in the United States.
“What happens when you have that massive increase in incarceration for adults is you have that massive impact on the children that are left behind,” he said. “What’s happening is unconscionable in our country, and we’re damning another generation.”
He emphasized that the overwhelming majority are nonviolent offenders.
“Remember, these are people being incarcerated, many of them for doing things the last two presidents admitted to doing. . . . They just happened not to get caught,” he said.