District's shocking child prison stats
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
NEWRY and south Armagh has one of the highest rates across the north of children visiting prisons, recent figures have revealed.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information reveal that in 2013 the BT35 postcode, which covers parts of Newry, Bessbrook, Camlough, Crossmaglen, Belleeks, Newtownhamilton and Jerrettspass, ranked 10th highest across the north for the number of children visiting prisons.
Over the year a total of 110 children from the area were recorded by the Northern Ireland Prison Service visiting Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank - with the majority of visits being at Maghaberry. Some of those recorded visited just a prison once while others visited several times.
The postcode BT34 which covers parts of Newry, Warrenpoint, Rostrevor, Rathfriland, Mayobridge, Hilltown, Kilkeel and Annalong had nearly half the number of visits compared to BT35.
The children's charity Barnardo's has described the children of parents in prison as "the forgotten victims of crime".
Deirdre Sloan, manager of Barnardo's NI Parenting Matters service which provides support for children and parents in prison, said: "Children with parents in prison can be the forgotten victims of a crime.
“Research shows they are likely to be at higher risk of poorer educational outcomes and can also suffer mental and physical health problems.
“They can experience trauma, fear, shame, guilt and low self-esteem which can cause disrupted sleep, changes in eating behaviours, stress and depression which in turn impacts on their education, health and relationships with family, community and school. It has also been identified that parents who keep in contact with their children while they are in prison are six times less likely to re-offend," she said.
Justice Minister David Ford said maintaining family life helps to reduce inter-generational offending: "The positive influence that the support and guidance of family members can have on a prisoner cannot be over-estimated.
“Northern Ireland Prison Service has been working with the children and families of offenders for many years. The Families Matter programme is an excellent example where Barnardo's and prison staff are helping fathers learn new parenting skills and in particular helping them to both understand the needs of children and promote and develop a positive relationship with their own child.
“It is considered an integral part of effective resettlement, helps prevent re-offending and contributes to the reduction of inter-generational offending."
Number of children visiting prisons in the north:
BT35 - Newry, Bessbrook, Camlough, Crossmaglen, Belleeks, Newtownhamilton and Jerrettspass
Number of child visitors: 110
Maghaberry - female child: 38
Maghaberry - male child: 44
Magilligan - female child: 5
Magilligan - male child: 5
Hydebank - female child: 7
Hydebank - male child: 11
BT34 - Newry, Warrenpoint, Rostrevor, Rathfriland, Mayobridge, Hilltown, Kilkeel, Annalong and Ballymartin
Number of child visitors: 56
Maghaberry - female child: 21
Maghaberry - male child: 16
Magilligan - female child: 6
Magilligan - male child: 5
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