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Assessing the hidden costs to families when a parent is in prison

March 1, 2012

The federal government's omnibus crime bill, currently being debated by the Senate, has launched a widespread conversation in Canada about the justice and penal systems. While the commentary and analysis has covered a number of different perspectives, including cost, effect on the court system, prison overcrowding, and imprisonment vs rehabilitation, there has been little attention paid to another important aspect of the debate, the effect of incarceration on families.

In the latest issue of Transition magazine released today, the Vanier Institute of the Family focuses on these effects through a family lens.

In "Waiting for Mommy: Children of Incarcerated Women", authors Alison Cunningham and Linda Baker explore the staggering emotional and practical costs to the children of women in prison. They report that it is children who feel the brunt of maternal incarceration and who carry the shame and stigma of having a mom in prison. This, in turn, creates stress in their own young lives, stress for which they may not have the coping skills or the ability to manage.

Contributor Julie Thompson, in her article "Striding Toward a Just Community", examines the challenges of reintegrating female inmates back into the community, and how, without the proper supports, many of these women have considerable difficulty trying to resume a normal life.

Transition Editor Jenni Tipper looks at how the demographic change affecting the whole country plays out in the prison system, in "Greying Behind Bars". Close to 20% of the federally incarcerated population is over 50 -- doubling in the past decade alone and expected to increase even more in the coming years. Dealing with the many physical and mental health issues of aging inmates is creating new challenges for an already stressed penal system.

Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute says "often legislators and policy makers focus only on those convicted of the crime without looking at the collateral damage created in a family unit when a parent or teen faces a criminal sentence. We hope this issue of Transition will inform the conversation which needs to take place around these important issues."

Transition magazine is a quarterly publication of the Vanier Institute of the Family, Canada's only national organization which, since 1965, has been a reliable and trusted source of accurate, current and relevant knowledge about families in Canada, providing quality research and analysis of the trends which influence the well-being of Canada's 8.9 million families. E-copies of Transition are freely available on the Institute?s website

For media interviews related to the topics covered in this issue, please contact Nora Spinks, CEO of the Institute at 613-228-8500 x 214.

For more information contact:
Nora Spinks
The Vanier Institute of the Family
Phone: 613-228-8500

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The Vanier Institute of the Family


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