In October 1981 the first comprehensive survey of imprisoned parents in New South Wales was carried out. The results were published in 1982 as part of the ‘Children of Imprisoned Parents’ report issued by the Ministry of Youth and Community Services of NSW.
In July 1997 the NSW Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Issues published a second study on the issue, a ‘Report into Children of Imprisoned Parents’. The committee’s investigation collected evidence from 26 individual and corporate submissions, visited correctional centres in Australia and overseas, and surveyed existing international research on the subject.
‘Children of Prisoners: What has changed in 18 years?’ described a 1999 survey of 200 imprisoned parents in New South Wales with children under 16 years of age, identical to the 1981 survey. Using its results, chief researcher Derek R. Brookes examines the inadequacy of response of the NSW government of the day to the recommendations of both the 1981 and 1997 studies.
The findings were disappointing. In his introduction, Dr Brookes wrote:
It is heartbreaking to work through these stories [written by prisoner parents], piecing together what has happened to each child as a result of their parent’s imprisonment. One after another, they describe the kind of suffering and anguish that would shock the conscience of the public.
… Eighteen years is long enough. It is time for serious and genuine reform in the policies and procedures of those institutions and agencies involved with children of prisoners and their families.