Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 2.4 Sentence Length


The most recent published estimates for average sentence length for incarcerated fathers are from the Mumola (2000) report, “Incarcerated Parents and their Children.” Average sentence length for fathers was 6 to 7 years among state inmates and 8 to 9 years among federal inmates as of the 1997 data collection on which this report is based.  

As shown in Exhibit 2-4, slightly more than half of incarcerated fathers were expected to spend at least 4 years in prison.

Exhibit 2-4. Sentence Lengths among Fathers in Prison

Exhibit 2-4. Sentence Lengths among Fathers in Prison. See text for explanation.

Source: Mumola, C. (2000). Incarcerated parents and their children.
Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A 2006 (unpublished) estimate from Mumola suggests that sentence length characteristics remained relatively unchanged as of the 2004 Surveys of Inmates, with fathers incarcerated in state prison expected to serve an average sentence of six years and ten months.  Eighteen percent of fathers were expected to serve less than two years (Mumola, 2006).

  • Most parents in state (62%) and federal (84%) prison were being held at correctional facilities located more than 100 miles from their last place of residence prior to incarceration (Mumola, 2000).
  • Of parents in federal prison, 43% were held more than 500 miles from their last place of residence, compared with 11% of those in state facilities (Mumola, 2000).

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