Page last updated at 08:07 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 09:07 UK

Courts 'should consider mothers'

View of a woman prisoner in her jail cell through the cell door window
Wales has no jail just for female prisoners

Magistrates and judges in Wales should take account of whether women are mothers when sentencing them, says a children's charity.

Barnado's Cymru said courts "need to look at alternatives to custodial sentences" when dealing with mothers.

They should know more about the impact of a sentence on a child, it says.

Laura Tranter said a woman should still face the full range of sentencing "but whether or not she needs to lose ties with her children is another issue".

The children's charity said children in Wales who have a parent in prison need better support.

Its report, Every Night You Cry, says that failing to address their needs has a negative impact on their behaviour, claiming that "almost two-thirds of boys with a convicted father go on to offend" if no interventions are made.

The charity says there are an estimated 160,000 children in the UK who have a parent in prison, more than twice the number of children in care and six times the number of children on the child protection register.

'Special need'

It said only two plans out of 22 for young people in Wales specifically mentioned the children of prisoners. Wales has no prison for females only.

Ms Tranter, a development officer for Barnado's Cymru, said: "There's generic family support but we haven't anything in Wales that targets [being the child of a prisoner] as a special need and that's what we want.

"But what we want first of all is for sentence planners and courts to have guidance to show them what the impact of a custodial sentence is on children, first.

"In Wales, it's a big issue with mothers - we haven't got a prison in Wales for female prisoners, so for children whose mother goes to prison, this is a real issue.

"We need to look at what the issues are for those children and where their mothers are placed."

The current UK prison capacity stands at 85,404.

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