Family Incarceration is Not the Solution: Proven Alternatives to Mass Incarceration of Families

On June 20, 2018 President Trump signed Executive Order 13841, titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” which called for the temporary halt of family separation while the administration worked to identify places where they could incarcerate children alongside their parents. Incarcerating families, for any period of time, is detrimental to children’s long-term health and development, with consequences such as suicidal gestures and ideation, anxiety, sleeplessness, behavioral regressions, and loss of appetite.

Along with being less humane, family incarceration is more expensive than alternative to detention programs. In its Congressional Budget Justification for fiscal year 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated that it costs approximately $319.37, per person, per day, to house a person in a family detention center. In comparison, other alternative programs cost as low as 30 cents to $8.04 per person, per day. These alternative methods include family-based case management, community-based programs, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-ins and home visits.

The Family Case Management Program

The Family Case Management Program, launched in 2016, assigned social workers to provide individual case management for asylum seekers, including:

  • orientation and education about participants’ rights and responsibilities;
  • individualized family service plans;
  • assistance with transportation logistics;
  • safe repatriation and reintegration planning for participants who are returning to their home countries.

In a 2017 DHS Office of the Inspector General review, ICE reported that 99% of participants across the five regions attended their ICE check-ins and appointments, and 100% attended their court hearings.

Despite the success of the program, the Family Case Management Program was discontinued by the Trump Administration in June 2017.

Fact Sheets

Published on June 27, 2018


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