Prisoners' children suffer as well: study

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am

A support group for prisoners' children says the lack of physical contact and support from their imprisoned parents is causing behavioural and developmental problems.

The Society of Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention said a study it conducted earlier this year found that many of the children were told by their family members to conceal their parents' incarceration to avoid being labelled and discriminated against.

At the same time, the change in family status brought about a sense of insecurity, helplessness and stress among the children.

Ten-year-old Rainbow Cheung (not her real name) described the hardships she suffered during the 18 months her mother was confined to prison.

'I really missed my mum but I never told any of my classmates. I told them she went to the mainland,' she said.

Rainbow said she visited her mother once a month: 'We were separated by the glass with lots of holes. I needed to step up to get close to the holes in order to speak ... it's too noisy there.'

Rainbow's mother, Mrs Cheung, said the room for prisoners' visits was too noisy and Rainbow was too short to reach the holes in the glass to hear better.

Rainbow said she was not allowed to tell her grandparents about her mother's imprisonment.

'Mum was afraid [the grandparents] wouldn't be able to take it,' she said.

According to the Correctional Services Department's annual report for last year, there were 20,109 people aged 16 or above in jail.