A recent report indicates that children with an imprisoned parent are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions in the future. The Daily Shift’s Jenny Holmes reports…
Children with a parent in prison are twice as likely to have a mental health problem over the course of their lifetime according to a new report released today.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) compiled the report, entitled “Picking up the Pieces: The Rights and Needs of Children and Families Affected by Imprisonment”.
According to the report the criminal justice system is failing to protect the rights of families of prisoners, which it describes as the “hidden victims” of the Irish prison system.
Latest figures show that there are 4,248 individuals in custody in Ireland and that 80,000 annual visits are child visits. According to the report 4,300 children are separated from an imprisoned father while 142 children have an imprisoned mother.
Prison conditions for children visiting parents in many prisons were found to be unsuitable. The report noted that high counters in Cork prison and Mountjoy prevented small children from seeing their parent.
Non-contact visits are also having an effect according to family members. TThe IPRT called on screened visits in Cloverhill Prison and St Patrick’s institution to be stopped.
During the research, which for this report focused on 26 family members, including four children aged between 6 and 16, the IPRT found that 61.5% of parents in prison stated that their child was unaware of their parents imprisonment but that they sensed their child knew.
Children regularly found out about a parent’s imprisonment through peers at school or via the Internet.
The IPRT says that the stigma associated with having a parent in prison was evidenced by a child’s reluctance to disclose their parents’ imprisonment to peers for fear of bullying.
The report also noted that the impact on children’s mental health is greatly increased if a parent is imprisoned and that ADHD is a significant problem for children affected.
Members of the IPRT are calling for a new government agency to be set up to provide information and support to families affected by imprisonment.
The organisation has also made a number of recommendations to Government, An Garda Siochana, the Court Service and the Prison Service
Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the IPRT said:
”We are talking here about the rights of families and children who have committed no offense A child that wants to maintain a proper relationship with his father or mother while they are in prison. A child that doesn’t understand why they cant touch them, why they cant see them… these are real social pressing issues that are children’s rights issues and family rights issues, the rights of people who have committed no offenses”.
The Irish Penal Reform trust is an independent nongovernmental organisation.