Over 100,000 children in England and Wales have a parent in prison
More than 100,000 children have a parent in prison for the first time since records began, according to analysis of government figures.
An official Ministry of Justice estimate says that each male prisoner has, on average, 1.14 children, meaning that an estimated 100,084 children have a parent in prison. Estimates for the number of children affected by parental imprisonment in the UK in a year vary, with the most recent being as high as 312,000.
Many children with a parent in prison go on to lead positive and fulfilling lives. However, a range of research shows that they are more likely to suffer from problems later in life including mental health problems, homelessness and poverty. Crucially they are also more likely to get involved in crime.
The charity Prison Advice and Care Trust is calling on the government to:
1. Make better use of community sentences for people who have committed non-violent offences. Around three in five people who are sent to prison to serve a sentence have committed a non-violent offence.
2. Reconsider its prison-building programme to create an additional 20,000 prison places. England & Wales has the highest rates of imprisonment in western Europe with numbers of people behind bars expected to top 100,000 by the middle of the decade.
3. Create a new ministerial position with responsibility to develop a joined-up action plan to support these children, working across Education, Justice, Health and Policing.
Charity CEO Andy Keen Downs said:
“This is a grim milestone that says a lot about our approach to criminal justice in this country. By imprisoning record numbers of parents we are storing up a whole raft of problems, the impact of which will be felt for decades to come.
Children are extraordinarily resilient, and with the right support, many children with a parent in prison can lead great lives. However, it is a sad fact that they are more likely to suffer from a whole range of problems later in life including mental health problems, homelessness and poverty, as well as being more likely to get involved in crime.
The public believe that prison is the right place for many people who offend. However, it’s time for the Government to reconsider its prison expansion programme and to make better use of community sentences for people who have committed a non-violent offence. In a rush to get ‘tough on crime’ and imprison ever greater numbers of people, ministers seem to have given little consideration to the long-lasting damage this policy will wreak on children and families.”
What can we do?
There is a body of case law that requires a court to have regard to dependant children before imposing a custodial sentence upon the carer. All of our advocates are trained in these issues and will always ensure that detailed and robust submissions are made to a sentencing court.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child has indicated that the best interests of the child of a defendant or an imprisoned parent must be considered carefully and independently by ‘competent professionals and taken into account in all decisions related to detention, including pre-trial detention and sentencing, and decisions concerning the placement of the child’
In the leading case of Petherick  EWCA Crim 2214 the Court of Appeal laid down nine crucial principles to be considered before imposing imprisonment on the carer of a child. Our advocates ensure that in all cases, the court focuses carefully on all of those factors before reaching a sentencing decision.
If you are facing investigation or prosecution for any criminal offence, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity in order to ensure the most favourable outcome for you and your family.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.
Image credit: “lonely boy” by AngelsWings is licensed under CC BY 2.0.