October 3, 2011

Prison separates 17,000 children from mothers

by Jan Harris

According to a report from the Howard League for Penal Reform, ‘Voice of the Child’, around 17,240 children in England and Wales were separated from their mothers in 2010, because the mothers were serving a prison sentence.

This includes 11,000 children of non-violent offenders, who could have remained with their mothers if they served sentences in the community rather than in jail.

The report was produced to coincide with a discussion on the rights of prisoners’ children by the United Nations.

The Howard League believes that children suffer severe distress when their mothers are imprisoned, and that this leaves the child emotionally, socially and psychologically scarred.

It is believed that 65 per cent of children with a convicted parent will become offenders themselves.

Earlier this week it was reported that the prison population in England and Wales increased by 300 in just one week, to 87,501.

This was the fourth consecutive week of increase, taking prisoner numbers to just 1,000 fewer than the usable operational capacity of 88,533.

The figures were inflated by tough sentences being given to people involved it the riots which spread across the UK during the summer.

Rioters have received sentences of 10.4 months on average for violent disorder, compared with an average of 5.3 months in 2010, while people convicted of burglary received an average sentence of 14.1 months, compared with 8.8 months in 2010.

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