When A Parent Goes To Prison, A Child Also Pays A Price
by NPR Staff
When she was a child, 22-year-old Ifetayo Harvey’s father was sentenced to prison for cocaine trafficking.
“My dad went to prison when I was 4 years old, and he was released when I was 12,” Harvey says.
Harvey is one of millions of young people who grew up with a parent in prison. A recent study from the National Academy of Sciences examined the growth of incarceration in the United States, and among the topics was the effect on kids and families when a parent goes to prison.
Like many children with incarcerated parents, Harvey has suffered for her father’s crime.
But at first, she didn’t even know her dad had gone to prison.
“I noticed that my dad was gone for a while, but because my parents weren’t married and they didn’t live together, I assumed that he would be back,” Harvey tells NPR’s Arun Rath.
She started receiving letters from her father, and was confused by the long strings of letters and codes. She says it was in sometime in first or second grade that her mother told her that her father was in prison.
“I was really sad about it,” she says.
In his letters, he told her how much he loved and cared about her, but Harvey says it felt like a contradiction with him not being there while she was dealing with a lot of depression and shame. “It was just a really confusing time,” she says.
Jeremy Travis, one of the authors of the National Academy of Sciences report, says despite the rate of incarceration quadrupling over the past four decades, no one has really studied its effects on the family — especially kids — before.
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