How many people in prison are parents?

Nearly two in five people in Australia’s prisons are parents. 38% of people in prison have a child in the community who depends on them for basic needs (AIHW, 2018). Due to a lack of publicly available data, we don’t know exactly how many people in Victorian prisons are mums and dads, but based on the national rate, we can estimate around 3,000 Victorian parents are in prison.

How many kids have a parent in prison?

Research estimates around 5% of children will have a parent go to prison (Quilty, Dowell). That’s around 235,000 Australian children who will have a parent go to prison, or 45,000 children in Victoria.

More than 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will experience their parent’s incarceration (Quilty, Dowell).

How children of prisoners end up in prison themselves?

Imprisonment can become an intergenerational problem. Nearly one in five people in Australian prisons had a parent or carer in prison during their childhood. That number rises to 31% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, compared to 11% for non-Indigenous people.

Younger prison entrants also report a higher rate of parental incarceration: 25% of 18 to 24-year-olds in prison have had a parent imprisoned, while 10% of people aged over 45 have had a parent in prison.

How does a parent’s imprisonment affect people?

When a person is imprisoned, it can affect their entire family.

Some impacts include:

  • Experiencing stigma, shame, grief, and hopelessness
  • Children being placed into foster or kinship care, or caring for younger siblings
  • Financial challenges
  • Poor communication with parents in prison and limited or no visits
  • Feelings of anger, anxiety, loss and low self-esteem
  • Few opportunities for parents to use parenting skills or feel like a parent
  • Expectations around a parent’s release from prison
What can be done?

Organisations like VACRO are working to keep families and communities connected when a person goes to prison. Our work includes:

  • Family counselling and parenting strategies for eligible parents in prison, to help keep relationships strong.
  • Maintaining family connections through video visits to prisons, made from the comfort of a child’s own home.
  • Meeting some of the costs of travel and accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families visiting loved ones in Victorian prisons.
  • Organising family activities and school holiday fun for kids with parents in prison.
Resources for families

We have resources and information available for families with a loved one in prison.

View VACRO's resources