Children of Prisoners

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One of the main people who are affected by loved ones in prison is children. As (Shaw 1992), says ‘’Prisoners’ children have been variously referred to as the ‘orphans of justice’’. As (Matthew 1983), refers to children of prisoners as ‘‘forgotten victims’ of crime’’. As (Shaw 1987), says about prisoners children as the ‘‘Cinderella of penology’’. It is ‘’Est. 200,000 Children Have a Parent in Prison in the UK’’ Williams et al. (2012). However, this figure is referred to as a ‘dark figure’ as many prisoners children go on recorded in the system. Prisons do not regularly record whether people have children under the age of 18.

‘’The unavoidable consequence of this practice, however, is that in excess of an estimated 125,000 children are ‘sentenced’ to enforced separation from a parent at the present time’’ (Ramsden 1998). It has also been estimated that around 720,000 children are separated from one parent because they are imprisoned. Children who are separated from their family due to both or one of their parents being imprisoned they may face being in poverty and poor housing because they have no were else to go only care homes and other facilities or with extended family members.

‘’Only 5% of children remain in their home following separation from a mother due to imprisonment’’ (Home Office, 2007). With a family member imprison this can cause financial hardship as they might have been the sole bread winner when they were not imprisoned this may cause their family to sink into poverty or debt as they may have little to know ways of paying for the bills or transport to and from the jail during visiting times especially if the family members do not drive or cannot afford a car they will have to get public transport which will cost them in the long run.

Having a family member in prison can also have a significant financial cost for many other reasons such as having to put money on their prison account for them to get food, drink and supplies from the prisons tuck shop as well as putting money on their prison account to top up their prison phone card which the inmates will then use to phone their family twice a day once in the afternoon before they are locked up after their lunch and once at night time before they are locked up again for the night at 7 pm.

This can cause many missed phone calls for children and the inmates families and partners as many have jobs between these hours and many children are in school between these hours as well which means the majority of the time they miss the phone calls. This can have a lasting impact on the children and their families if they go a few days without speaking to them.

It can make the children act out if they haven’t heard from their parent(s) in a few days. ‘‘He [dad] is only allowed to phone the family between 3pm and 4pm on any day, but I’m often not back from school in time, so I often miss the phone call’’ ( child, cited in Glover 2009). In Hydebank wood young offenders they are allowed twenty-five numbers on their phone card which means they could stay in close contact with close or distant family members. “He’s an adult and I still have to support him and dress him. I have to make sure he has everything he needs.” (Mother of adult prisoner inIPRT2012:39). ‘’Women and children are more likely than men to experience financial hardship’’ (Smyth & Weston, 2000).

Therefore, they may have to leave home at a young age because of this. Children who do not have a mother or father figure in the home due to being imprisoned may develop behavioural problems as they have no one to look up to and they also do not have a role model to look up to. As well as this fighting or arguing before or after visiting their parent(s) while in a different and difficult environment can lead to behavioural problems. Behavioural issues that a young child may have when a parent(s) is in prison may be bed wetting due to stress, withdrawn behaviour, aggression, delinquency, depression, regression, sleep problems and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

These behaviour traits are also linked in with mental health and other complex issues. ‘’Anecdotal evidence suggests that children are at risk of antisocial reactions to parental imprisonment’’ (Johnston 1995; Sack 1977; Sack and Seidler 1978). ‘’Concerns about the child’s own possible future antisocial behaviour; for example, 65% of boys who have an imprisoned parent are estimated to go on to offend’’ (SCIE 2008; DCSF 2007). ‘It has been reported that forty nine percent of prisoners’ wives reported adverse changes in children’s behaviour since their husbands’ imprisonment’’ (Morris 1965). One of the young people who was involved in Morris’s study in 1965 was ‘’discovered by a policeman tampering with car locks and the boy declared his intention of joining his father in prison’’ (Morris 1965: 91).

It has also been reported that children who have a parent(s) imprison are more likely to be exposed to anti-social behaviour traits and also poor mental health such as depression, anxiety and self-harm, than those children who do not or have never had a parent(s) who have spent time inside our prison system. Further to this point it has also been highlighted in many studies conducted with prisoners who have children that they themselves are more like to be at risk of self-harm such as harming themselves with sharp objects such as razors or plastic knives and forks.

‘’If we don’t keep in touch, she [mum] will think we don’t love her and she will harm herself again.’’ (Child, cited in Glover,2009). Furthermore, children may also start to perform less in school as they may have little to know interest in schoolwork due to having a parent(s) imprisoned which can and will result in them achieving little to know educational qualifications which will result in them not getting a well-paid job which could also lead them to be in poverty. ‘’ Schools have been identified as having a key role in supporting children who experience parental imprisonment’’ (United Nations 2011; SCIE 2008; Ramsden 1998). ‘’ 7% of children will see a parent imprisoned during their school years’’ (MOJ 2007).

Another example in which children education can be affected is visiting times at the prison their parent(s) are in. As mentioned before in this essay prisons are only aloud to use the phone twice a day during unsociable hours to ring their family as many jobs are between nine am and five pm and many school start at nine am and finish at two or three pm which means neither can be rang during these hours meaning contact is few and far between.

Further to this point prison visiting hours are also at unsociable times such as during school and work hours as well as this prisoners are placed in the prisons that have available room for them which the majority of the time they are places miles away from their family which can make it difficult for their family to visit them. Which then makes it difficult for the family and prisoner to maintain and a sound and strong relationship this can also have a knock on effect on the children as they are not talking or seeing their parent(s) which can ultimately lead behavioural issues and break down in communication and relationships.

For example the three prions in Northern Ireland Hydebank wood, Milligan and Maghaberry visiting times are as follows. Prisoners in Milligan can be visited Wednesday to Friday in the morning only at 10:15 until 11:30. They can also be visited on Saturday and Sunday only at 14:15 and 15:30. Visiting for Maghaberry is as follows. Prisoners can be visited Tuesday to Sunday at the following times only 9:15, 10:30, 10:45, 14:00, 14:30 and 15:30 all above times are for one hour only. The final prison in Northern Ireland is Hydebank wood young offenders and womens college.

There is no visiting on a Monday but a prisoner can be visited the rest of the week in Hydebank a if a inmate is enhanced they are granted two visits per week as well as remanded but if they are basic they are only aloud one visit a week. If an individual was to have a visit they can have a two hour visit on a Tuesday and a Thursday the rest of the week they are aloud a one hour visit between 14:00 and 15:00 on the weekdays and either 10:00 or 14:00 on the weekends. Therefore, making it almost impossible for children not to miss some of their school classes. ‘’The support that they receive through visits can help ‘alleviate the pain of imprisonment for some prisoners’’ (POPS, 2007: 2). Three of the main key themes which impact prisoners and their families are homelessness, poverty and debt.

Social stigmatisation is another key example of what is wrong with today’s society especially when it surrounds children. Furthermore, ‘’imprisonment of a parent can lead to an increase in household poverty, stigmatisation and bullying as well as feelings of guilt, worry and loss in the child’’ (Action for Prisoners’ Families 2003; Nesmith & Ruhland 2008). Children are not the only focus of prisoners as some inmates may not have children and are only survived my other family members. Families are an important influence on many aspects of prisoners’ lives. ‘’Family and parenting variables are key predictors of criminal behavior through the life-course’’ (Farrington 2002; Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber 1986).

It is well documented that women are the primary care givers in children’s lives. ‘’Statistically across the UK, women are far more likely than men to be primary care givers’’ (ONS,2016). ‘’In 2010, around 7,000 children were separated from their mothers by imprisonment in England and Wales ‘’Wilks-Wiffen, 2011). However, this figure may be higher as many children go on reported, recorded and they also fall through the cracks when they have a family member who is or who has been in prison. Children with a mother in prison are invisible within systems that should protect them. ‘’Provisional estimates suggest that around 125,000 (about 1%) of children under age 18 have a parent in prison in England and Wales’’ (Murray, 2007).

There is currently a lot of stigma around having a family member imprisoned however, there is more stigma around having a mother imprisoned than a father as it is more common to see a male imprisoned than a female. Which can result in the young person or other family members feeling embarrassed or shamed by having their mother in imprisoned which can also make them feel like they are being judged. ‘’More than 60% of women prisoners are mothers and 45% had children living with them at the time of imprisonment’’ (MOJ 2007).

Cite this paper

Children of Prisoners. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/children-of-prisoners/

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