The Forgotten Victims – the Effects of Imprisonment on Families/Whānau Dr Venezia Kingi
Structure of today’s presentation • Introduction • Maintenance of family ties • Effects of imprisonment on family/whānau • Prisoners’ children • New Zealand research • Conclusion
Introduction • New Zealand has a high rate of imprisonment compared to other OECD countries • a peak population of 8,457 was recorded in September 2007 • NZ female prison population increasing at a greater rate than for males (Dept of Corrections, 2007) • a growing number of families or whānau may have to struggle with the negative effects of having a family member in prison
Maintenance of family ties • the maintenance of the family unit • the enhancement of the well-being of individual family members • the facilitation of the prisoner’s post-release success (Barr et al, 2005; Deane, 1988; Hairston, 1991; Holt & Miller, 1972; Kingi 1999; Mills & Codd, 2007.)
Maintenance of family ties • Danger of placing too high expectations on families - • some may engage in criminal behaviour • some may not wish to maintain links with the offender • some may end up feeling responsible if rehabilitation does not occur and • importantly, families’ needs may end up being secondary and be neglected. (Mills and Codd, 2007)
Effects of imprisonment on family/whānau • characterised by poverty and disadvantage and reliance on welfare • vulnerable to financial instability, poverty, debt and potential housing disruption • high rates of depression, physical illness (Smith et al, 2007) • often stigmatized by the community and interaction with official organisations (Condry, 2006)
Effects of imprisonment on family/whānau • Maintaining relationships during imprisonment can be financially and emotionally draining: • expense of subsidising prisoners financially • costs incurred visiting prisoners • trying to keep problems from prisoners • women act as the emotional linchpin for prisoner and other family members
Prisoners’ children • female prisoners more likely to have dependent children (47% vs 26% males) • female prisoners more likely to be living with their children (35% vs 12% males) • numbers prisoners’ children not routinely collected 2003 New Zealand Prison Census (Dept of Corrections, 2003)
Prisoners’ children • experiences will differ according to which parent is imprisoned: • children of imprisoned fathers cared for by their mother or father’s partner (79% vs 21% female) • children of women prisoners looked after by extended family/whānau, friends or in foster care
Prisoners’ children • developmental and behavioural problems (Johnston, 1995; Kingi, 1999) • adverse mental health outcomes (Murray, 2005) • negative emotional reactions including fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, and confusion (Woodward, 2003) • increased likelihood of contact with the justice system(Murray & Farrington, 2005; Quilty, 2003) • reduced family income, home and school moves, traumatic prison visits, disrupted relationships between prisoners and children’s caregivers, stigma, shame and decreased social support (Murray 2005)
New Zealand research • limited - most substantial studies more than 10 years old (e.g. Deane, 1988 and Kingi, 1999) • Deane (1988) identified difficulties families experienced with: • children, • social isolation • problems with mental and physical health. • housing • prison visiting (such as having to negotiate multiple forms of public transport with young children in tow). • financial hardship • a potential source of income being lost • costs incurred in supporting the family member in prison
New Zealand research Kingi’s (1999) findings similar, families said: (The children) have lots of different medical problems ... eczema, asthma, they’ve all got asthma except for (six year old) ... all typical signs not only tied in with the separation from their mum but also the fact that their mum was abused by her partner and also they were abused (by him) as well. We manage ... it’s difficult but we get along. We struggle now and then, but at least we’ve got food in our cupboards to feed ... the kids. (Prisoner) used to ask me for money and I can’t afford to give her any money and I feel so terrible - you know? I really wish that I could take the (children) to see her but I haven’t got that money and I haven’t got anyone to stay with down there, I can’t afford a hotel or anything like that ... The whole family probably would’ve loved to go down.
New Zealand research • financial assistance to visit and the improvement of visiting conditions and facilities in prisons (Deane 1988). • families of women in prison need (Kingi, 1999): • financial and emotional support • more information – on prison protocols (e.g. visiting/contact), and their legal and welfare rights
But ……. You know unless you actually know what to ask for you don’t find out. Nobody’s there volunteering the information ... it’s terrible.
Conclusion • Although increasingly recognised as having a key role in prisoner resettlement and in preventing reoffending, families/whānau continue to experience a range of difficulties and challenges, with relatively little official support or recognition (Mills & Codd, 2007). • Important to acknowledge the role the voluntary sector play in supporting prisoners and their families/whānau. • There is a need for up to date New Zealand research on the needs of prisoners’ families/whānau and the potential contribution they can make to an offenders’ community re-entry and desistance.
Conclusion • We need to increase the visibility of the difficulties faced by prisoners’ families or whānau, and to give them a voice. • In this way government when developing new policy, together with other organisations, can consider their needs and the ways they can best be supported, and in the long-term empowered to support themselves.