Call Morrisons 24/7
Wollongong 02 4227 3505

Published: 30 August 2022


Have you ever thought about the children of prisoners? Not a common thought for most people. However, once you delve into the topic, it becomes apparent that systemic change is required.

New report released: Support for the children of imprisoned parents

Have you ever thought about the children of prisoners? Not a common thought for most people. However, once you delve into the topic, it becomes apparent that systemic change is required.

Children of prisoners are thought to be serving “hidden sentences”, due to the way imprisonment negatively impacts upon their lives. A recent report considering children of the incarcerated was released in June 2022. The report states children of prisoners suffer from:

  1. Poorer physical and mental health
  2. Developmental delay
  3. Financial and housing stress
  4. Poorer educational and employment outcomes
  5. Increased risk of contact of the child protection system & justice system

The report was compiled after gathering information from site visits, roundtable discussions and two days of public hearings. The report recommends changes to our current justice and correctional system, to improve the lives and wellbeing of the children. The major changes include:

  • Amendments to bail and sentencing law
  • Establishing new facilities for children and parents within correctional facilities
  • Changing how NSW Police manage children of arrested parents
  • Improved collection and sharing of data


In 2017-18, over 60% of women held on remand had at least one child. As a society, we are able to reduce the “hidden sentences” being served through reducing the number of parents being bail refused. Currently, Bail Authorities (senior police officers, Magistrates and Judges) do not need consider the impact of bail on an accused’s children. Inserting a mandatory consideration of the “best interests of the child” in the Bail Act 2013, would result in Bail Authorities being forced to consider children in their assessment of bail applications.

In considering bail, the following are also important:

  1. The depth of caregiving responsibilities
  2. Any increase exposure to domestic violence
  3. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander considerations


Every day in our Courts, Magistrates and Judges must consider whether a short period of imprisonment will achieve all purposes of sentencing. The report highlights that women often serve short periods of imprisonment, which ultimately disrupts the lives of their children. This disruption may be avoided through amending the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 in the following ways:

  1. New consideration of parenting and primary caregiving responsibilities
  2. An exhaustion of all alternative sentences before imposing a custodial sentence under 12 months
  3. Non-custodial sentences to be preferred for offenders that are pregnant or have dependent children

The intended outcome is to decrease the number of caregivers in prison, and to reduce the harmful flow on effects on children.


There is a prison located in Sydney where mothers and children live together, the Jacaranda Cottages facility. This innovative concept allows mothers to play an active role in the upbringing and development of their children. This results in reduced risk of the children developing significant mental health issues. It is reported that women that leave Jacaranda Cottages are less likely to reoffend due to the maintained relationships with their children.

The report advocates for this model to be replicated throughout NSW. However, it is important to assess the mother’s stability, risk profile, and ability to provide care before allowing the offender to enter the program.


When a parent is arrested, the effect on a child can be immensely confronting, painful and long-lasting. There are two significant flow-on effects of an arrest:

  1. Increased likelihood of developing a mental health condition, including PTSD
  2. Greater behavioural problems and psychological maladjustment

To combat these effects, the report contends the NSW Police policies need to be reviewed and revised with the best interests of the children being considered. This may be as simple as requiring the police to ask: “are there any children at home, and who can we ring to make sure they are okay?”


Without precise data on the nature of this issue, the impact of the above policy change cannot be accurately measured. The report consistently highlights the need for improved data for the:

  1. Number of parents on remand or serving custodial sentences
  2. Quantity of children impacted upon by imprisonment
  3. Judicial decisions of sentences for parents and care givers

Currently, there is no sharing of data between the NSW Government’s departments of Corrections and Education on this issue. Through improved data collection and sharing of data, it is hoped that a whole of government approach can be formulated. A simple benefit would be allowing schools to be notified when a child’s parent enters into custody, which would trigger support programs.

We encourage you to read the report here.

As a law firm, Morrisons are committed to advocating for the rights and wellbeing of children in the judicial and correctional system.

At Morrisons we are specialist criminal and traffic lawyers based in Wollongong and the Southern Highlands. If you require advice or representation, you can book an appointment with one of our expert criminal lawyers.

Contact us today

We are the only private law firm in the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and South Coast regions with two lawyers recognised as Accredited Specialists in Criminal Law by the NSW Law Society.