The Inquiry into Support for Children of Imprisoned Parents in NSW has been asked to consider the impact on children of imprisoned parents and the adequacy of policies and services to assist them. The ALS' submission seeks to shed light on some of the impacts on children, especially as a result of the imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are mothers, mostly single mothers, to young children.
Aboriginal prisoners are more likely (54%) than non-Aboriginal prisoners (43%) to have dependent children. This figure is up to 80% for Indigenous mothers in prison.
The policy advocated by the ALS is directed towards reducing imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with a particular focus on Aboriginal mothers, in order to mitigate against the adverse, and sometimes tragic, consequences that flow from a term of imprisonment for children.
The best policies to support children will be those that seek to do three things:
- Divert parents, particularly mothers, from prison custody whenever possible;
- Address the underlying factors that contribute to offending (such as unstable housing, poverty, trauma, child protection interventions and the lack of rehabilitation services and healing programs and ongoing access); and
- Support children to maintain contact with parents and caregivers in custody.
This submission focuses primarily on the need to divert and support Aboriginal women but many of its recommendations apply equally to Aboriginal men.