Having a loved one who is incarcerated impacts everyone, especially children. Kentucky has the 6th highest rate of parental incarceration with more than one in ten children having a parent who is incarcerated and more than half of all incarcerated adults – 64% of women and 55% of men – being parents.
Parental incarceration is an Adverse Childhood Experience, or ACE, because it can negatively affect a child’s short and long-term behavioral, educational, and health outcomes. Even when a parent is away for a short period of time, it can impact their ability to financially support their family.
When a parent commits a nonviolent offense and they do not pose a threat to public safety, there should be robust options for the courts to impose an alternative sentence that holds adults accountable for their actions while also prioritizing parent-child unity. That’s why we applaud Senator Julie Raque Adams for filing Senate Bill 296, an act relating to community parenting sentencing alternative plans.
SB 296 is modeled after the Primary Caregiver Law in Tennessee and will expand Judicial discretion to impose a community-based alternative to incarceration if a nonviolent offense was committed, the defendant is the primary caregiver to a dependent child, and the offense was not committed against their child. If each of the conditions are met, the Judge will have the option to require a defendant to complete a variety of community-based services that can include everything from mental health referrals and family counseling to financial literacy training and vocational or educational services.
Incarceration should be reserved for those who pose a threat to public safety. And by doing so, most parents can be held accountable for their actions in ways that will allow them to care for their children and continue to successfully contribute to society.
To ensure that SB 296 receives a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, reach out to your Senator and ask them to support it. For more information, you can view and download the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children one-pager and remain up to date on SB 296’s progress by viewing our Bill Tracker.