We live in a world where topics that relate to justice have become more mainstream of late. We constantly hear the statistics of the injustice around us, the trauma, the stagnation of progress, and the social justice warriors doing their bit through the power of social media. So how and when will we reach a place of mass progress?
I’m sure we’re all familiar with how structurally oppressive systems directly affect ourselves, our families, and our communities. However, enormous data gaps with significant ongoing impact are still present, and we are still far from subconsciously incorporating intervention and prevention-based initiatives into efforts in addressing oppressive systems.
In the example of youth with an incarcerated parent, there’s very limited Australian data gathered on demographics within the justice system. What we do know is that almost 60% of female prisoners and almost 80% of male prisoners in New South Wales (NSW) had their father incarcerated as youth. As for mothers incarcerated, over 20% of female prisoners and more than 10% of male prisoners in NSW have the same link in the cycle. We also know that in NSW, 1 in 2 female prisoners are mothers themselves.
The scarce amount of data available suggests that support is needed for youth living this reality. When a parent is incarcerated, their children experience various stressors such as enforced separation from primary caregivers, poor educational outcomes, and financial hardship, all of which can follow a person their entire life and create additional barriers as children reach adulthood.
When the layer of racial injustice is mentioned in the conversation, we put our guards up as we know that racial profiling, ongoing racial violence and monocultural power structures, make bla(c)k and negatively racialised communities more privy to these dialogues. In Australia, it’s common knowledge that First Nations people are overrepresented in our prison cells. This is an example of the manifestation of structural violence and in this case, the ripple effect of incarceration.
Although this current landscape is daunting*, we mustn’t ignore that this experience is not certain to have the same outcome. Rather this experience should be seen as a flag post which needs increased attention through implementing prevention-based mechanisms to eradicate this possibility at go. Intervention and prevention are arguably best practise for improving intergenerational cycles.
Community support programs are available through initiatives nationwide and have provided recommendations for moving forward. In their submission, Supporting Children of Prisoners and Reducing Barriers to Family Connection, SHINE for Kids recommended, “That the Premier urge the Prime Minister develop a Prevention of Intergenerational Involvement with Criminal Justice System Fund to support the development of a NSW strategy and the rollout of a national strategy for children of prisoners.” This is one example that could lead to tangible progress.
Although gaps are still present and government inquiries are investigating further, grassroots organisations are leading the way as the backbone in providing this support. Below is a brief list of organisations dedicated to this space; please show your support or feed your curiosity further.
*Out of respect to author, Maia Onyenachi Ihemeje, we have chosen not to publish the numbers as she feels this will further stigmatise the community. If you would like more information or exact figures, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
MEET THE AUTHOR
MAIA ONYENACHI IHEMEJE
Maia Onyenachi Ihemeje’s lineage spans from both rural NSW and rural Nigeria. She has been influenced by her lived experience and exposure to the justice, housing and family court system and is currently working with colleagues to create a national anti-racism policy. Maia believes in the power of wholistic and community led spaces to direct and facilitate appropriate, long-term solutions and hopes to continue down a path that resonates with these core values.