News Release – Thousands Of Prisoners’ Children Haven’t Seen Their Parents For A Year
One year on from the first lockdown, Families Outside, Scotland’s only national charity working with children and families affected by imprisonment, have highlighted new research findings on the devastating impact of the pandemic on children of prisoners. New research published by Dr Shona Minson from the University of Oxford found that, prior to the lockdown, 96 per cent of children with a parent in prison were visiting their parent regularly. Since the lockdown restrictions were introduced, thousands of children have not seen their parents in prison now for over a year.
In an open letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP, Families Outside has called upon the Scottish Government to recognise the negative impact of this loss of contact on children and to take action to support family reunification and resettlement after imprisonment. They want the Scottish Government to:
- provide a clear roadmap for the justice system, the re-establishment of prison visits, and the lifting of restrictions within prisons at the same time as announcements are made about the easing of restrictions across the rest of the community;
- Stop courts from remanding parents with dependent children in custody unless there is a compelling public safety reason why this is unavoidable. 1 in 4 people in prison in Scotland are currently held on remand, and there are long delays before cases come to trial; and
- Consider whether parents in prison can be released early to serve the remainder of their sentence on licence.
As Scotland marks the first anniversary of entering COVID-19 restrictions, Chief Executive of Families Outside, Professor Nancy Loucks said,
“Restrictions introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives have meant that thousands of children across the UK have not seen their parent in prison for over a year since the first lockdown was introduced. Children may not fully understand why contact has stopped and may blame themselves. The negative effects on relationships due to this loss of contact are likely to be long-term. Video calls have been a lifeline for families, but these have been limited and are sometimes problematic for children. It is vital that, as restrictions are eased, the Scottish Government sets out how family contact will be re-established in prisons and how appropriate support is put in place to help rebuild family relationships.”
“Enormous delays to the justice process as a result of the pandemic mean that 1 in 4 people in prison are now held there on remand. Parents with dependent children should not be remanded in custody unless this is absolutely necessary for compelling reasons of public safety.”
Notes to Editor
“The impact of COVID-19 prison lockdowns on children with a parent in prison” is a research report published by Dr Shona Minson, University of Oxford. It is one of the only pieces of research to be carried out that solely considers the impact of lockdown for children affected by imprisonment. The research is based on a number of interviews with families across the UK and covers; changes to family contact, mental health, and behaviour. A link to the full report and its findings is available here.
Laura van der Hoeven