Moving poems written by prisoners and their children have been published in a new book edited by a De Montfort University Leicester academic.
Dr Lucy Baldwin, senior lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice, has compiled drawings and poetry in Seen & Heard, which features 100 poems by children and parents across the UK.
It includes work by a 13-year-old whose parents are both in prison, and the poem which inspired the book - a mother writing about being “torn away” from her son after she was sentenced.
“I realised that for all the academic papers I’ve written, for all the times I’ve pleaded with policy makers and parliament to make fundamental changes, it’s all just been my voice speaking,” she said.
An estimated 312,000 children are affected by imprisonment annually, 17,000 of whom are separated from their mothers, often for sentences of less than six months.
Only five per cent of children remain in their own home, with many displaced to be cared for by local authorities.
“When parents are sentenced, so are the children,” said Ms Baldwin, who gave evidence to Parliament earlier this year on the effect of short prison sentences on women prisoners and their children.
“We know that children with a parent in prison are more likely to be negatively affected emotionally, financially, educationally and socially.”
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To put together ‘Seen & Heard’, Ms Baldwin and co-editor Ben Raikes worked with Children Heard and Seen and My Time – British charities dedicated to supporting children of prisoners.
They invited children to talk at length about their emotions and express them in whatever ways they could, through words or drawing.
Along with contributions from the children, the team worked with groups of inmates in different institutions, holding writing groups and poetry sessions to encourage them to speak about parenthood and how they coped away from their families.
Adult contributors included parents writing from inside prison and ex-inmates looking back on their experiences. Some were serving short sentences in mother and baby units, others would be inside for life.
“I hope this book will help open people’s eyes to what children deal with when they are separated from their parents in this way,” she added.
“I’ve learnt more from this book than any of my research – and I’ve been working in criminal justice for 30 years."
Royalties from the collection will be split between Children Heard and Seen and My Time – British charities dedicated to supporting children of prisoners.
- Seen and Heard: 100 Poems by parents and children affected by imprisonment is published by Waterside Press, £14.95.
Posted on Monday 29th April 2019