For the first time on record, an estimated 100,000 children have a parent in prison on any given day, according to new analysis published yesterday (5th October 2023) by the Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact).
The most recent weekly figures published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that the prison population stands at 87,793. The MoJ estimates that each male prisoner has, on average 1.14 children meaning that an estimated 100,084 children have a parent in prison right now. Estimates for the number of children affected by parental imprisonment in the UK in a year vary, with the most recent being as high as 312,000.
The prison population has risen by 80% in the last three decades and has grown substantially in the last few years, returning to levels not seen for over a decade. It is projected to rise by a further 7,400 by 2024.
Many children with a parent in prison go on to lead positive and fulfilling lives. However, a range of research shows that they are more likely to suffer from problems later in life including mental health problems, homelessness and poverty. Crucially they are also more likely to get involved in crime.
Pact is calling for the Government to:
- Make better use of community sentences for people who have committed non-violent offences. Around three in five people who are sent to prison to serve a sentence have committed a non-violent offence.
- Reconsider its prison-building programme to create an additional 20,000 prison places. England & Wales has the highest rates of imprisonment in western Europe with numbers of people behind bars expected to top 100,000 by the middle of the decade.
- Create a new ministerial position with responsibility to develop a joined-up action plan to support these children, working across Education, Justice, Health and Policing.
Andy Keen Downs, Pact CEO said: “This is a grim milestone that says a lot about our approach to criminal justice in this country. By imprisoning record numbers of parents we are storing up a whole raft of problems, the impact of which will be felt for decades to come.
“Children are extraordinarily resilient, and with the right support, many children with a parent in prison can lead great lives. However, it is a sad fact that they are more likely to suffer from a whole range of problems later in life including mental health problems, homelessness and poverty, as well as being more likely to get involved in crime.
“The public believe that prison is the right place for many people who offend. However, it’s time for the Government to reconsider its prison expansion programme and to make better use of community sentences for people who have committed a non-violent offence. In a rush to get ‘tough on crime’ and imprison ever greater numbers of people, ministers seem to have given little consideration to the long-lasting damage this policy will wreak on children and families.
“Prisoners’ children fall between the gaps in public policy. We need a designated Government minister with responsibility to develop a joined-up action plan to support these forgotten children, working across Education, Justice, Health and Policing.”
- Pact is a charity that works in over 60 prisons across England and Wales to support prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.
- Working with families themselves, we have also developed a range of resources and information for children and young people whose family member is in prison.