Magazine article Corrections Today

Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality Sara Wakefield and Christopher Wildeman

Magazine article Corrections Today

Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality Sara Wakefield and Christopher Wildeman

Article excerpt

Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality

Sara Wakefield and Christopher Wildeman, Oxford University Press, New York, 2014, 231 pp.

As my colleagues and I were rising through the ranks of the federal prison system during the 1980s and 90s, we observed and discussed an intriguing phenomenon that "Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality" addresses in detail. We did not know exactly what would eventually happen to all of these inmates and their families, but we did observe a larger number of inmates and longer sentences over time. We also noted that as the count climbed, the number of minority inmates climbed faster. The Federal Bureau of Prisons responded to this by rapidly building prisons (three of my 10 assignments were in brand new facilities), but they could not keep up with the growth. Double-bunking was unusual at first, but within a few years, triple-bunking became the norm. The public and policymakers saw incarceration as the panacea for criminals, the mentally ill, and particularly drug users and abusers. How would would incarceration change these (mostly) men and their families?

Now, authors Sara Wakefield and Christopher Wildeman take a closer look at what was happening during the "prison boom"--specifically, they ask what happened to children when the incarceration rate grew six-fold. In most cases, having an incarcerated parent is not good for a child. But minority children are much more likely to have a parent incarcerated, and, as Wakefield and Wildeman document, mass imprisonment perpetuates social inequality. Mass imprisonment has transformed racial inequality among children, with implications for the future of inequality in America. For example, I was startled to read that African-American children, born around 1990, had a 25 percent chance of having their father incarcerated. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.