Two percent of the nation's 72 million children--1.5 million youngsters--had a parent in prison in 1999, according to statistics released in August by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Most of those children were younger than 10; the average age was 8.

The bureau also found that:

  • 93 percent of imprisoned parents were male.

  • 90 percent of fathers in state prisons said at least one of their children was living with the child's mother.

  • 28 percent of imprisoned mothers said the father was the current caregiver.

  • 57 percent of imprisoned fathers and 54 percent of imprisoned mothers said they'd never had a personal visit with their children since entering prison.

  • The percentage of black children with an imprisoned parent was nearly nine times greater than that of white children; the percentage for Hispanic children was about three times greater than that of white children.

  • 60 percent of parents in state prisons said they'd used drugs in the month before arrest.

  • 14 percent of parents in prison said they had a mental illness.

  • 70 percent of incarcerated parents didn't have a high school diploma.

  • 18 percent of imprisoned mothers and 8 percent of fathers were homeless before entering prison.

--T. DeANGELIS