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Children: Unintended Victims of Legal Process--A Review of Policies and Legislation Affecting Children with Incarcerated Parents: Discussion Paper

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2006
120 pages
This paper examines the potential for the lives of children with incarcerated parents to significantly improve and the costs to the community reduced, by implementing policies and processes that acknowledge their existence and situation.
It is suggested through the findings of this discussion paper that the hardships experienced by the children and their caregivers in Victoria are similar to those found in the rest of Australia, and in Europe and the United States. There are systemic precedents for the courts to overlook the human rights of these children of incarcerated parents. Today, Australia has committed to protecting the rights of all children. The articles of the United Nations Charter for the Rights of Children clearly state how those rights are to be protected in court proceedings and that the best interests of the child must always take priority. The establishment of the Child Safety Commissioner (Victoria), a role with departmental independence and interdepartmental oversight, provides an ideal framework to guide this process. The acknowledgement of children in the Family Court, and the more holistic approaches of the Drug, Koori, and Family Violence Courts, show that effective systems are already in place, and many established practices could be readily incorporated into protocols and law. When a primary caregiver is arrested and sent to prison their children suffer. There are common themes in the reported behaviors displayed by children of prisoners, such as loneliness, anger and guilt, delinquency, and anxiety. This discussion paper examines the current policies and guidelines that affect children with imprisoned parents. It covers the period from the arrest and imprisonment to the parent’s release from prison. Even though the paper focuses on Victoria, it draws on national and international research. The paper examines the implications in the omission of policies and guidelines. It concentrates on the experiences of children whose mother has gone to prison. Tables, figures, and references