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Publication Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016

Laura M. Maruschak, BJS Statistician, Jennifer Bronson, Ph.D., Mariel Alper, Ph.D., former BJS Statisticians

March 30, 2021    NCJ 252645

This brief presents findings based on data collected in the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates, a survey conducted through face-to-face interviews with a national sample of state and federal prisoners across a variety of topics, such as their demographic characteristics, socio-economic background, health, and involvement with the criminal justice system. This brief provides demographic information about prisoners who have at least one minor child and the number of minor children reported by parents in prison.


  • An estimated 684,500 state and federal prisoners were parents of at least one minor child in 2016—nearly half of state prisoners (47%) and more than half of federal prisoners (58%).
  • State and federal prisoners reported having an estimated 1,473,700 minor children in 2016.
  • Among minor children of parents in state prison, 1% were younger than age 1, about 18% were ages 1 to 4, and 48% were age 10 or older.
  • The average age of a minor child among parents in federal prison was 10 years old.

Full report (PDF 378K)
Data tables (Zip format 7K)

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Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI)

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