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CHILDREN OF WOMEN IN PRISON 'ALSO BEING PUNISHED'

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The number of children affected by maternal incarceration has risen to an estimated 5,000 a year, and the system - ...
The number of children affected by maternal incarceration has risen to an estimated 5,000 a year, and the system - from the police to social services - offers neither sensitivity nor support, according to The Guardian (Society, p2).

One of the problems is that unless women make arrangments for their children's care in advance of being sentenced or remanded, they are not given any time by the courts formally to do so.

But because of the nature of the offence or because they were not advised of the possibility, women were frequently not expecting a sentence. The majority of children in such circumstances go to live with their maternal grandmother or aunt, and where there was no one to care for them, into local authority care.

Another problem is that many carers do not seek help from the one agency thay should be able to go to because they, and inmate mothers, feared that social services' involvement might lead to children being taken into care.

The article also reports that resource constraints meant that social workers rarely brought children in local authority care to visit mothers more than once every few months, yet these were often the children that most needed the visit.

The article calls for a reduction in the number of women going to prison, with an increased use of community penalties, which would reduce the risk of the children of women in prison becoming the next generation of inmates.

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