By Kenosha Tannahill
This blog was originally published on June 17, 2022.
As the saying goes: “It takes a village to raise a child,” and when a parent — an integral part of that village — is incarcerated, life for these families becomes harder. There are more than 800,000 parents in federal and state prisons, and 92% are fathers. When incarcerated fathers are released from prison, they are faced with incredible challenges as they work to reenter society. Not only do they face the unique obstacles of fatherhood, but they are often left to deal with financial, residential, and employment challenges upon release.
For fathers coming out of jails and prisons, facing these obstacles with little to no support increases the risk of recidivism and other negative consequences, which causes a trickledown effect on the children and custodial parents. But each of these problems has a unique technological solution that can help fathers stay involved in the lives of their children.
It will come as no surprise that finding work with a criminal record can be difficult and often fruitless. But the fact of the matter is that to lower the chances of recidivism, it is crucial for recently released individuals to find steady, meaningful work. Applicants with a conviction on their criminal record are 50% less likely to get a call back after a job interview.
In recent years, fair chance hiring initiatives have been sweeping the United States to create more employment opportunities for people with criminal histories. Companies that proactively hire individuals with prior convictions have higher employee retention rates which positively impacts a company’s bottom line.
Additionally, with the current state of the job market, companies are understanding the importance of needing a larger talent pool to fill the ever-growing number of open jobs. This realization not only helps companies, but also benefits formerly incarcerated individuals and gives them a chance to land a job and break the cycle of incarceration.
When fathers are incarcerated, it negatively affects the lives of their families personally and financially. Custodial parents who cannot rely on child support payments while the other parent is incarcerated are often burdened by financial hardship, and there are many children in such situations. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 47% of state prisoners and 58% of federal prisoners have at least one child under the age of 18, and 20% of all incarcerated parents have a child support obligation.
Furthermore, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, incarcerated parents leave prison with an average of $20,000 in unpaid child support. This crippling debt often remains unpaid long after their release due to the difficulties in finding stable employment for Americans with criminal records.
When incarcerated fathers struggle to keep up with child support obligations, they are less involved in their children’s lives, which causes more stress and emotional/behavioral difficulties for the child. Additionally, incarcerated fathers may recidivate when they’re unemployed and become “super-utilizers” caught in the cycle of incarceration, release, re-offense, and re-incarceration.
Technology that monitors target populations as they cycle in and out of incarceration can produce timely notifications to state agencies that trigger re-access to benefit programs. Up-to-date information that helps state agencies locate and monitor non-custodial parents at various stages of the criminal justice system can point agencies to areas to research to help ensure the right people are getting the benefits they need at the right time.
Upon release from jail or prison, many incarcerated individuals require a variety of ongoing behavioral and physical health services, and if those health needs are not met soon after release, the chances increase that formerly incarcerated individuals will commit more crimes and return to prison.
Those who are incarcerated represent some of the most high-need, high-cost individuals requiring medical care. A high proportion of those incarcerated are Medicaid beneficiaries or are Medicaid-eligible when they enter custody. If Medicaid agencies are not notified of an individual's incarceration status in a timely manner, then many recently released individuals find themselves without insurance, and their healthcare needs are left unmet.
It is critical to strengthen continuity of care for incarcerated Medicaid beneficiaries to improve healthcare quality of these individuals and to reduce recidivism. Improved continuity of care that comes about from timely notifications can help incarcerated fathers get back to being and staying with their families.
These challenges and obstacles create hardships in the lives of incarcerated fathers and can cause a trickledown effect that can also create more challenges and difficulties for their families.
To combat these challenges, Equifax developed a solution as part of the TotalVerify™ data hub to help people in these situations. Here is what the solution does:
When an individual goes through the incarceration cycle, child support agencies, Medicaid agencies, unemployment agencies, etc. using this solution receive timely alerts of the following events:
These alerts provide valuable pointer data so agencies can further investigate whether to stop unemployment and Medicaid payments and reduce or eliminate child support during the duration of incarceration. Then, after an individual is released from jail or prison and agencies confirm this through a full examination of data available, the appropriate agencies re-start unemployment and Medicaid payments and resume child support to the pre-incarceration amount.
Insights’ Incarceration Intelligence solution gives agencies access to trusted, timely data that helps agencies reduce fraud and risk, save time and money, strengthen continuity of care, and ensure the well-being of children and families.
This solution, along with a continuous monitoring solution that gives consumer reporting agencies helpful pointer information for their background screening checks can help companies’ confidence to hire those with criminal records and make the transition from prison to the outside world less stressful. When incarcerated individuals leave prison and do not have to worry about their health needs, crippling debt from their child support obligations, or whether they will be able to find employment, these people – many of whom are fathers – can get back to figuring out what they need to be contributing members of society and present fathers in the lives of their children.