Every year in England and Wales, around 200,000 children experience having a parent in prison. The majority of these children will have a father in prison, because the number of men in prison is far higher than the number of women. In addition to having a parent in prison, many children will experience a sibling or other family member being incarcerated.
Les Nicolles Prison in Guernsey has a capacity of 130 and has 11 wings in total and caters for a wide range of ages; from juveniles aged 14 upwards. There is a focus on lowering rates of reoffending and resettling prisoners after they have served their sentence.
Based on Barnardo’s research we now have a relatively comprehensive picture of some of the potential impacts of a family imprisonment on the lives of children.
We know that there is considerable variety in the way that children react to a family imprisonment and the impact that it has on their lives. For example, there is some evidence that boys tend to show externalizing problem behaviour, while girls tend to have more internalized reactions.
Depending on the strength of the relationship between the child and the parent in prison, they may experience a sense of sadness and loss; as well as concern about what is happening to their parent when they are taken away from them.
In the case of parental imprisonment, the parent left at home may be highly pressurized and left to deal with their own sense of loss and feelings of anger. This may have an effect on their ability to provide adequate parenting. Family finances may also change significantly, which may or may not have an impact of the children in the family. In some situations the imprisonment of a parent may lead to a change of primary caregiver. All these changes can cause children and young people a lot of anxiety.
Impacts on the child at school may include the child’s concentration and schoolwork deteriorating as well as their behaviour. The child may experience bullying or release their feelings of anger, sadness and loss in an unhealthy way.
You can help support young people who have a parent in prison by recognising them as a vulnerable group who need additional support. It is vital to ensure they feel included in the community and aren’t segregated by stereotypical views and opinions.
If you would like any further information or would like to signpost a young person to access some support please contact The HUB on 724 421 or email us on thehub.gg.