Saturday, May 21, 2022
The Contact Experiences and Needs of the Children of Prisoners before and during COVID-19: Findings from An Australian Survey
Catherine Flynn (Monash University), Lorana Bartels (Australian National University), Susan Dennison (Griffith University), Helen Taylor (Australian National University), Susy Harrigan (University of Melbourne ), The Contact Experiences and Needs of the Children of Prisoners before and during COVID-19: Findings from An Australian Survey, SSRN (2022):
Most of the research examining children visiting a parent in prison indicates that visits have a positive impact on children's well-being, their connection to the imprisoned par- ent and the parent themselves. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a significant change to prison visits worldwide, with limits or bans on face-to-face con- tact. Understanding the experiences and needs of children during this period remains limited. This paper presents the findings of a survey of 84 carers of 184 children across Australia, investigating children's experiences of contact with their imprisoned parent both before and during COVID-19 restrictions. Although most carers reported maintaining contact during restrictions, a range of difficulties were noted: reduced availability; the effect of prison-based issues, including lockdowns; and the suitability of video/telephone visits for young children. Some described the benefits of videocon- ferencing, including reduced travel time and cost, and not needing to take children into a prison environment. Despite this, respondents typically described the negative impact of restrictions, and lack of physical contact, on children's emotional well-being. Our findings suggest that, for video visiting to be successful, it should be complementary to in-person visits, tailored to the needs of children, with support offered to families.