The permanent and devastating collateral ramifications that a criminal conviction and corresponding sentence will have on our clients' children are well documented. So, too, are the reasons why a low-income parent may have a slew of prior convictions, as Stillman's article highlights.
Importantly, the Tenth Circuit has repeatedly acknowledged that sentencing courts are mandated under § 3553(a) to consider family circumstances as part of a defendant's "history and characteristics" when fashioning the appropriate sentence. See, e.g., United States v. Vargas-Ortega, 736 Fed. Appx. 761 (10th Cir. 2018) (unpublished) (reversing and remanding for resentencing where the district court erred in stating it could not vary downward based on family circumstances). It is therefore our duty when it comes to sentencing to fully investigate and to persuasively present our clients' stories to the court. And for our clients who are parents, part of that presentation must necessarily include discussion on the unquantifiable, lasting effects that a criminal sentence will have on our clients' children and the family structure.
For another good discussion on the "invisible victims of mass incarceration," as well as the use of family impact statements at sentencing, see Amy B. Cyphert Prisoners of Fate: The Challenges of Creating Change for Children of Incarcerated Parents, 77 Md. L. Rev. 385, 426 (2018).