INDIANAPOLIS - According to a recent survey, Indiana ranks near the top when it comes to children with a parent who has been incarcerated.
The 2011/2012 National Survey of Children's Health placed Indiana second on the list, only behind Kentucky. Oklahoma, Ohio, and New Mexico round out the top five.
It revealed that about 11% of Hoosier children have or have had at least one parent behind bars. That means about 51% of male inmates were fathers, while 62% of female inmates were mothers.
Child advocates say the ranking is devastating and shocking.
"This statistic really jumped off the pages," said Bill Stanczykiewicz, President of the Indiana Youth Institute. "It really is a remarkable finding that has even caught our top law enforcement and criminal justice officials by surprise.”
He explained that having an incarcerated parent can have a long-lasting impact and can put these children at risk of winding up behind bars too.
"It really affects how they view themselves and really limits their potential as they become adults... unfortunately also become a greater risk of becoming criminal offenders themselves."
While there is no clear answer as to why Indiana has so many parents in prison, Stanczykiewicz said some have ideas.
“The greatest speculation we heard is that this is related to lower level drug offenses and that Indiana, especially in the last decade, has been incarcerating more people for these lower level drug offenses,” he said.
There is a bill moving through the statehouse that attempts to bring that number down. House Bill 1006 aims to give more funding to the Department of Corrections so they can create more drug courts around the state. It has already passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.
"(This ranking) is really something that's catching a lot of people by surprise, but we hope as people become more aware of this, these kids can get the help that they need."