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Report: 52,000 NM youth have had parent imprisoned

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — One in 10 New Mexico youth have had a parent serve time behind bars at some point during their childhood as the state's incarceration rate increased in recent years, a report released Monday said.

Crime

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report shows 52,000 children in New Mexico have had a parent jailed or in prison, and the state is one of six where 10 percent of youth have had an incarcerated parent.

Nationwide, more than 5 million children — or 7 percent — have had a parent behind bars.

Only Kentucky and Indiana had higher rates than New Mexico, according to the report.

"Having a parent in prison creates a tremendous vacuum in a child's life," said Amber Wallin, director of New Mexico KIDS COUNT, which co-released the report. "Unfortunately, we are a state that offers very few alternatives to incarceration, and children are often not a sentencing consideration even for non-violent offenders."

New Mexico's incarceration rate has steadily increased since the 1980s, with recent figures showing the state having about 325 inmates per every 100,000 people — up from about 250 in 2000.

The non-profit New Mexico Voices for Children said the report underscores the need for reforms that could include directing judges to consider the impact a sentence could have on a defendant's child, and measures aimed at easing background checks for parents seeking jobs after they've served time and returned to their families.