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Incarceration and Family Life in the United States: Implications for Policy

ESSPRI and UCCS Present Kristin Turney, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine

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May 18, 2017
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM


1130 K Street, Room LL3

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The precipitous rise in incarceration in the United States, a phenomenon characterized by its concentration among already marginalized groups, means that a historically unprecedented number of individuals spend time behind bars annually. Incarcerated individuals are connected to families--as fathers, romantic partners, and co-parents--and the consequences of incarceration proliferate to family members connected to the incarcerated. Drawing on data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal study of parents in urban areas, Professor Turney documents the short- and long-term consequences of paternal incarceration for four aspects of family life: romantic relationships, parenting, economic wellbeing, and health. Results provide new insights into how the unintended consequences of the expanding penal system transforms the life course of those connected to the incarcerated. Understanding variation in the consequences of paternal incarceration across population subgroups provides an understanding about which families most need and will most benefit from interventions and, therefore, provide guidance about how to allocate resources.


Kristin Turney’s research investigates the complex and dynamic role of families in creating, maintaining, and exacerbating social inequalities. Much of Professor Turney’s current research examines the consequences of criminal justice contact for family life. In this vein, she investigates the deleterious, beneficial, and inconsequential effects of criminal justice contact on the wellbeing of children and families over time; considers heterogeneity in the relationship between parental incarceration and family inequality; and evaluates the family, school and neighborhood mechanisms through which parental incarceration fosters resilience among children. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript, What Doing Time Does to Families: Incarceration and Family Life in the United States. In other ongoing work, she and a team of graduate students are interviewing jail inmates and their family members—including current and former romantic partners, children, and mothers—both during their incarceration and after release. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, and others.


Click here to view the video - introduction.

Click here to view the video.

Please click here for the Policy Brief.

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation.

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