Together’s Director contributes to report on building resilience of families affected by the criminal justice system

Date: 9th April 2020
Category: Children of prisoners

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Having a parent in prison has a major impact on children’s human rights. They can face stigma, psychological distress, social and economic disadvantage and widespread disruption to their lives. The ‘Constructive Connections’ report, produced jointly by University of Salford, University of Huddersfield and Families Outside, focuses on areas that Scotland needs to prioritise in order to reduce the impact felt by these children.

The report’s findings include that:

  • schools can be a source of distress and bullying, rather than offering stability and nurturing aspiration;
  • the experience of prison visiting can be humiliating for children and young people; and
  • too often children bear this burden in silence and without support.

The report makes several recommendations on how to support families affected by the criminal justice system:

  • Schools should proactively identify the needs of the child, avoiding assumptions of coping when a child is hiding in isolation, and adopting a sensitive approach to outbursts or periods of distress.
  • More funding towards non-statutory, independent and Third Sector support, as these were found to be of enormous value to families.
  • The development of parent-to-parent and young people-led groups and a means for affected families to be put in touch with these groups.
  • Child-friendly prison visiting, with the ability to engage in physical contact with the parent and to undertake meaningful activity together.
  • Community-based interventions to educate others about the impact on children of victimisation.

Together’s Director, Juliet Harris, wrote the Afterword to the report, emphasising that the issues within it are fundamentally about ensuring that children’s human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. She set out the importance of the UNCRC and Council of Europe Guidelines on children with imprisoned parents as key to ensuring that a children’s rights-based approach is taken, and that children feel ‘humanised’ throughout the entire experience of their parent’s imprisonment.

Read the report in full here.