Parental Status, Race, Gender, Age and Arrests

By: Jennifer Wyatt Bourgeois, Ph.D.


Previous research has shown associations between parental incarceration and negative impacts such as interruption in parenting, residential instability, and loss of financial support.

From 2011-2017 there were over 100,000 bookings annually into the Harris County jail. Bookings into the Harris County jail have not been proportionally distributed. Each year, Black individuals represent 50% of all persons processed by the jail, despite comprising just 20% of the jurisdiction’s population. However, what remains unknown is the number of parents in the Harris County Jail separated from their children.

Without knowing the number of parents booked into the Harris County jail, it is difficult to determine the prevalence and impact of parental incarceration in the Houston area.

The purpose of this study is to fill a gap in existing research by examining the influence parental status has on arresting charges utilizing a sample of individuals at the Harris County jail. Simply stated, there are differences in the types of arresting charges based on parental status. This analysis moves the conversation beyond descriptives in understanding arresting charges of parents.

Research Questions

What is the relationship between parental status, race, gender, age, and arresting charge?

What is the interactional effect of parental status, race, and gender on arresting charge?


  • Parents and women are more likely to be arrested for property crimes.
  •  Black individuals are more likely to be arrested for public order offenses.
  • Thirty to forty-nine year olds are at a greater risk of being arrested for a drug-related or public order offense.
  • Significant relationships exist between age and arresting charge, prior criminal history, and arresting charge.