16 Pages • Read Time 33 Minutes

Connections between criminal justice and health:

Impacts on children and families

Safe, stable environments and nurturing relationships are essential for healthy child development. Parental criminal justice involvement disrupts family stability and strains relationships, exposing children to adversity and trauma at no fault of their own.

Incarceration of a household member is an adverse childhood experience that can cause serious and long-lasting health and economic harms across generations and for individuals, families and communities. These harms include an increased likelihood of children becoming involved in the justice system. At the same time, children need to grow up in safe communities, free from crime and violence, requiring a balance between community safety, family stability and child well-being in Ohio’s criminal justice policies.

This brief includes a collection of evidence-informed policy options that state and local policymakers and other public- and private-sector leaders can act on for preventing and mitigating the impacts of parental justice involvement on children and families.

Download the 2-page executive summary

Detailed Policy Inventory (excel)


3 Key findings for policymakers

  • Parental justice involvement negatively impacts the health, well-being and stability of children and families and increases the likelihood that children will become incarcerated later in life.
  • Ohio has a strong foundation for supporting children and families, including several policies, programs and practices that connect parents with their children during re-entry from incarceration. Still, more can be done to prevent and mitigate the impacts of parental justice involvement.
  • There are evidence-informed policy and program solutions to prevent and break generational cycles of justice-involvement, support children and families who have an incarcerated parent, and improve community health and safety.

HPIO resources


Members of HPIO’s criminal justice and health advisory group contributed information and feedback to this brief.

Funding for this project was provided by the Ohio State Bar Foundation and HPIO’s core funders.


Robin Blair-Ackison, MPH

Tonni Oberly, PhD, MPH

June Postalakis, BS

Jacob Santiago, MSW

Published On

December 1, 2023

Table of Contents

  1. 3 Key findings for policymakers
  2. HPIO resources
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