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Children,Poverty, Resilience and Criminal Justice Helen Codd

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Presentation on theme: "Children,Poverty, Resilience and Criminal Justice Helen Codd"— Presentation transcript:

1 Children,Poverty, Resilience and Criminal Justice Helen Codd
Reader in Law and Criminal Justice, Lancashire Law School Introduce me- my books, writing, research etc.

2 Children, Poverty, Resilience and Criminal Justice
Children as victims of crime Children as offenders Children with imprisoned family members, including mothers, fathers and siblings Children may be in all these categories: imprisonment of a family member is often ‘one more thing’ which goes along with poverty, social exclusion and family issues Today I am going to focus on children growing up with family members involved in crime, especially children of prisoners Growing body of research (in UK< rest of Europe_ on children growing up with one or more family members in prison: note UN Day of General Discussion on Children of Prisoners held in Geneva in September made a range of recommendations on arrest, police practices (inc arresting parents when children present) etc. Many childen of prisoners are likely to experience significant disadvantages and to come from families with pre-existing complex needs, inclusing social exclusion, family discord and instability of care arrangements, stigma, isolation, victimisation and poor educational attainment Difficult to tease out impact of parental (eg) imprisonment alone.

3 Researching Resilience
Resilience as protecting children from becoming offenders especially if their family members are involved in crime Resilience in relation to familial imprisonment The persistent ‘invisibility’ of imprisonment Resilience – “the strengths that people and systems demonstrate in enabling them to rise above adversity’ (Christmann et al 2012) Often imprisonment in the family (and involvement in criminal justice/arrests/crime) is the ‘elephant in the room’ and is there but unmentioned- so schools ‘see’ abuse, relationship breakdown etc. but not prison

4 Children of Prisoners 200,000 children per year affected by imprisonment of a parent (more than those affected by divorce) Children can be affected by the imprisonment of other family members, including siblings Note impact of rising prison population and increasing imprisonment of women 200,000 per year – is the 2012 figure from the MoJ for number affected in 2009 Higher than the number affected by family divorce Over five times the number on the Child Protection register (PRT 2012: Mulready-Jones 2011) EUROCHIPS suggest 800,000 children of prisoners in the EU (Scharff-Smith & Gampell 2011)

5 Imprisoned mothers 17,000 children per year separated from their mothers (estimated) Mothers are often held long distances away from their children (and further away than male prisoners) UK- around 65% of women prisoners have children under 16 living with them at the time they are sentenced (Corston Report 2007)

6 Impacts of Imprisonment
Can benefit children if it leads to increased stability/respite Financial Changes in residence and/or caregivers Emotional and behavioural problems Difficulties at school Problems of not knowing the truth Stigma/victimisation/fear - Loss of income, and a criminal income is still an income, combined with costs of visiting/supporting which may affect finances of whole family -On average children move residence five times in the first year following imprisonment of a parent - note role of grandparent caregivers and role of women -Distrust of authority including teachers esp if think parent wrongly arrested/convicted Emotional and behavioural inc school- boys ‘act out’ (eg conflict, violence); girls ‘act in’ (eg anxiety and eating disorders, self-harm). Can lead to anti-social behaviour, aggression, low-level offencing (as found by recent UK Huddersfield COPING project) Some parents may not tell children the truth (POPS -1/3 know truth; 1/3 told lie; 1/3 told nothing at all). Note problems then of concealing knowledge from parents. If parental imprisonment is secret then children do not have the opportunity to discuss their feelings of loss, which increases the trauma (they become ‘disenfranchised grievers’). COPING project –recent- has oted confusion and worry and children would often not belive false reasons given for other parent’s absence – tended to fantasis about possible scanrios which were often worse than reality. Ayre and Reiss 92006) conclude that children need adequate explanations about what has happened to their imprisoned parent in order to assist them to cope: Myers (1999( suggested that well-managed prison visits have the potential to reassure children that their parent is well and still loves them. Meek (2007) identified the importance of good visiting facilities in her study of young fathers in prison, and Losel et al 92012) stressed the importance of protective factors, such as strong family bonds strengthened through visits, that are crucual in helping children to cope with parental imprisonment. Stigma – note fear of victimisation can be as damaging as victimisn itself.

7 Researching Resilience
Growing UK research interest in protective factors present in children of prisoners themselves and their environment, and in possible interventions to build resilience Protective factors include personality traits, stable affectionate care and external supportive relationships

8 UK Research Professor Janet Walker ( – Newcastle University- ‘Pathways Into and Out of Crime: Risk, Resilience and Diversity’ (led to several published reports): one study within this focused on risk, protection and resilience in the family life of children and young people with a parent in prison. -identified importance of kin and friendship networks in helping children cope

9 The COPING Project January 2009-December 2012
Consortium of partners (including research institutions and NGO’s) in six EU countries researched the impact on mental health, well-being and resilience of children with imprisoned parents (funded under EU 7th Framework Programme). UK work was based at Huddersfield University. Child-centred: it aimed to gather information from the perspectives of children themselves and used methods that facilitated the active engagement of children and young people Focused on mental health and well-being. Held conference in Brussels in November Many reports/articles coming out at the moment drawing on this research. It was a multi-country qualitative study of stakeholder perspectives in England, Germany, Romania and Sweden and included not only children but parents, adult professionals, prison staf, social workers etc. Concerns about contact between parents and children were common to all stakeholders, also linked to visits esp in prisones which on the whole are not designed with children in mind. Small changes (eg pictures on walls) can make a big difference to the experience of visiting. Impact of conflicting emotions (but not so much in Germany as the three other countries)

10 COPING Project findings
Found many pathways by which parental imprisonment may affect a child’s wellbeing Children with imprisoned parents as a group are at a significantly greater risk of suffering mental health difficulties than children who do not have parents in prison Identified key factors relating to children’s resilience including children’s innate qualities; the importance of stability provided by caregiving parents, and the importance of sustaining and maintaining relationships with the imprisoned parent Schools- note Ormiston Trust on this – and my own article- school provision is patchy and varied (Note school libraries- porrible role of school nurses etc with appropriate training/knowledge)

11 COPING project findings …
Children’s resilience is closely linked to open communication systems and children need opportunities to discuss their experiences throughout the period of imprisonment Schools can play a key role in contributing to the emotional well-being of children of prisoners Schools can be patchy; levels of knowledge vary (note key roles which could be played by teachers, support staff, school nurses and school libraries; note work of Ormiston trust)

12 Conclusions- Children, Poverty, Resilience and Criminal Justice
Relevance to West Cumbria? Children growing up experiencing poverty and social exclusion may also be experiencing parental involvement in crime, criminal justice and imprisonment Imprisonment in the family is often ‘the elephant in the room’ when we talk about children growing up with poverty and social exclusion Children in areas with high levels of social exclusion may experience imprisonment within their home community, kin and friendship networks Schools can play a key role in building resilience Need for grass-roots, child-centred research More research is needed – which is what we are hoping to do Note that I wish we didn’t NEED to research resilience – I wish kids didn’t grow up with problems- but we need to be realistic and focus on thins which actually make a real difference to children’s lives. We can focus on long-term goals (like ie me wanting to cut imprisonment and use communtiy penalties more) but in the meantime and the current political context we need to be realistic if we are to help children have better lives and to grow into responsible adults.

13 Questions? Any questions?

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