Every Door Closed: Barriers Facing Parents with Criminal Records

Executive Summary

Over 10 million children in the United States “have parents who were imprisoned at some point in their children’s lives.” In 2001, approximately 400,000 mothers and fathers will finish serving their prison or jail sentences and return home eager to rebuild their families and rebuild their lives.

As these parents struggle to make a fresh start, they will encounter a myriad of legal barriers that will make it extraordinarily difficult for them to succeed in caring for their children, finding work, getting safe housing, going to school, accessing public benefits, or even, for immigrants, staying in the same country as their children.

This report examines some of the barriers that, singly and in combination, tear families apart, create unemployment and homelessness, and guarantee failure, thereby harming parents and children, families, and communities. It was written in collaboration with Community Legal Services, Inc. by Amy E. Hirsch, Sharon M. Dietrich, Rue Landau, Peter D. Schneider, and Irv Ackelsberg.