How children pay the price when their mothers are jailed

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The Independent Online

More than 17,000 children are separated from their mothers each year because the women have been sent to prison. Almost all are forced to leave their homes, an analysis of figures from the Government and prison reform campaigners has found.

More than 17,000 children are separated from their mothers each year because the women have been sent to prison. Almost all are forced to leave their homes, an analysis of figures from the Government and prison reform campaigners has found.

Almost half of women in jail lose all contact with their families, while a third lose their homes and their possessions. Most are incarcerated for non-violent offences and a high number spend months behind bars on remand but are never convicted.

The report, Mothers Behind Bars, compiled by the Liberal Democrats, found that even short jail terms led to family breakdown. Only 5 per cent of children with mothers in prison stay in their family homes and most end up in care or living with a grandparent, father or other relative.

The report, published on the eve of Mother's Day by Sandra Gidley, the party's women's spokesman, says there are now a record number of children with a parent in prison. A third of children whose mothers are jailed suffer serious mental health problems, it says. They also do badly at school and "become angry and self-destructive".

Despite the rising number of women in prison, the number of visits is decreasing, with many prisons failing to hold visits outside school hours. The report found that today alone 6,000 children will be separated from their mothers.

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