IPRT is excited to announce that we are embarking on a new three-year project on families of prisoners, aiming to reduce harm for children and families affected by imprisonment, with a particular focus on reducing female imprisonment.

We estimate there are approximately 6,500 children with a parent in prison in Ireland on any given day, while more than 10,000 experience parental imprisonment each year. Imprisonment of a household member has lasting effects on a child.

Families affected by imprisonment are overwhelmingly located in areas with the highest levels of deprivation; the harmful effects of prison exacerbate disadvantage and discrimination. Prison fails to address and often deepens many of the underlying causes of crime such as poverty, mental health, addiction, and homelessness. Our increasing reliance on prison in response to those with complex needs, particularly women, is a profound failure in social policy.

Four out of ten sentenced women in prison are serving sentences of less than 12 months, despite policy consensus that community-based alternatives should be used instead. Women are more likely to be primary carers and their children face multiple hardships in these cases. This project will work to incrementally transform policy and practice in this area to reduce harm on children and families.

The project will comprise: research; advocacy; events; and the formation of a network of organisations working in the area of prisoner family support.

This work builds upon our previous work in this area:

We’re very grateful to our funders, Katharine Howard Foundation and St Stephen’s Green Trust, for supporting such a timely piece of work.