They’re our future, not our future prisoners

PILLARS have launched their 5th annual Children of Prisoners Week with their Breakfast without Bars event.

This year they are doing things differently. Their week-long campaign aims to raise the voices of children who are affected by parental incarceration. This year we are listening to our children and their needs. We need to unlock these children out of their silence and give them a voice to release their potential.

These children have created beautiful artwork to share their stories, thoughts and journey. You can personally view the display in the Spark building, located at Victoria Street West, Auckland.

PILLARS, located both in Christchurch and Auckland, is a charitable organisation that recognises the way children of prisoners serve an invisible sentence alongside their parents. Through no fault of their own, they experience the pain, humiliation and isolation that coincides with incarceration. PILLARS is dedicated to ensuring that these children are supported through their mentoring programme. Volunteer mentors are matched with suitable children and create stable, positive and ongoing relationships.

“All my male role models in my life just left”, Darryn explains. Darryn is a 14-year-old boy from South Auckland who has experienced his father going into prison twice throughout the last two years. PILLARS estimates that there are 23,000 children across New Zealand in a similar position as Darryn. Over the past two years there have been moments where he has felt lost, alone and scared. Through the mentoring programme that PILLARS provides, Darryn has been encouraged to fulfil his dreams of excelling in Rugby League.

The system often forgets children of prisoners. They slip through the cracks. They become lost. We need to acknowledge the potential in children like Darryn. We need to stop writing these children off. With the love, support and encouragement from the PILLARS mentoring programme these children can dream and attain bright futures.

Research conducted by PILLARS estimates that children of prisoners are nine times more likely to be imprisoned than those who have not experienced parental incarceration. This demonstrates the intergenerational cycle of imprisonment that we are currently facing in New Zealand. We need to break this pattern to make a better future for future generations.

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Imprisoning an individual costs approximately $100,000 per annum; a cost that becomes amplified when the estimation includes the cost of harm to society caused by the same crime. As children of prisoners are significantly more likely to be imprisoned later in life, it is important that steps are made to reduce their involvement within the criminal justice system. Supporting these children at such a crucial stage of their lives is both a social and economic investment that we must make.

Currently PILLARS have 20 young children in need on their waiting list for their mentoring programme. Throughout this Children of Prisoners week, PILLARS are aiming to raise awareness and funds to support children that have parents in prison. There are three ways that you can support this organisation:

 

By Grace Gordon, JustSpeak Auckland Uni Club