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Tougher penalties impacts children

28 November 2008

Tougher penalties impacts children

Tougher penalties for law-breakers will have a huge impact on the children of prisoners, says PILLARS president Dr John George.

"More prisoners and more prisons will provide a greater task for PILLARS in fighting crime at the most fundamental level - by breaking the intergenerational cycle of crime," Dr George says.

PILLARS, a charity supporting the children of prisoners through mentoring and other programmes, could easily double its client numbers without any additional referrals.

"Our helpline brings to us twice as many families as who would benefit from intensive assistance as we are able to help," he says.

A specialist youth worker will come on board at PILLARS this year to support teenagers as the organisation's existing mentoring programme is geared to younger children.

"Teenagers who are children of prisoners often have much greater problems with absenteeism, anti-social behaviour and a heightened sense of being anti authority," says Dr George.

"It is not unusual for our mothers to find their teenagers unmanageable."

Training front-line organisations on how to treat children of prisoners and to "champion" a programme where prisoners can be a parent even though they are in prison are also on the cards for this year.

Improving the quality of the connections between incarcerated parents and their children can make a significant difference to the lives of these children, says Dr George.

Prisons not only need to be more family-friendly but pre-release programmes for prisoners should include support for prisoners who are parents returning to their families, assisting them to regain custody of their children, where appropriate, and to help secure housing and employment.

"Generations are connected. Providing a barrier between children and their incarcerated parent ends up harming the innocent children."


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