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New report from Crest Advisory on the impact of maternal imprisonment

New report examines how imprisonment affects mothers and children

04 November 2021
New report from Crest Advisory on the impact of maternal imprisonment

A new report from Crest Advisory about the impact of female imprisonment has been published, focusing on the cost of imprisonment for mothers who are imprisoned and their children. The research found that distrust of local authority social services and poor communication and information sharing formed a significant barrier for mothers engaging with services that may help prevent them from offending in the future. Additionally, the research found a significant number of mothers in the criminal justice system have had children removed from their care, but that there was inconsistent data collection on maternal status.

They also found that the impact of maternal separation was not properly supported with the criminal justice system and that maternal imprisonment is a significant trauma for children – not just the initial arrest and court proceeding, but lack of honest communication about what is happening, and stigma and shame causing a life-long adverse impact.

Additionally, opportunities to divert mothers from the criminal justice system are not being used well enough - the research acknowledges that sentencing guidelines for judges and magistrates consider primary carer status as a mitigating factor, but felt that knowledge and application of these guidelines was low and the impact of a custodial sentence was not being adequately considered (also highlighting a drop in pre-sentence reports).

The report goes on to set out three principles, which are:

  • Mothers should only be sent to prison as a last resort
  • Children affected by maternal imprisonment must be offered specialist support
  • Maternal identity and the impact of separation from children must be understood and supported by all agencies.

It concludes with a summary of key recommendations for relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Justice, local Police and Crime Commissioners and the Department of Education. There is also a recommendation included for mandatory training for the judiciary on the impact of maternal imprisonment and sentencing guidelines for those with primary caring responsibilities.

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