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Friends of Prisoners' Childern

The Association - "Friends of Prisoners' Children " - was formed in July 2006 to consolidate and expand a program that had begun in 2005 to give out scholarships to children of long-term prisoners in Welikada Prisons.

We call the children we deal with - 'the forgotten children'. Every time a crime is committed there are really more victims than the direct victims themselves - and the most vulnerable of these - are the children of prisoners. Prisoners’ children are often overlooked in social and educational programs. Yet many children suffer upsetting consequences as a result of their parent’s incarceration and this has a significant impact on their behavior & their self image and esteem. In some cases these youngsters suffer more than their own parents as a result of the incarceration.

They feel as though they too are going through a prison term.

They are unable to visualize positive change in their future and as a result, they become insecure & helpless.

They become misfits in society and these children have been found to be more aggressive and antisocial. Problematic behavior such as stealing, truancy, school failure, and fighting tends to increase among children of prisoners. Studies have also found that these children tend to look at society as the cause for all their issues as the concept of 'justice' becomes confused in their minds when punishment is meted out to their parent.

Every one of these children speak well of their parent in prison. Many of them say their fathers were people who looked after the family and loved the children. In their minds they think it is some injustice that has put the parent in prison. Such are the suffering of these children. This kind of pain can hardly be understood by those of us who have not undergone this kind of experience.

And as such children of prisoners are more likely than other children to enter the criminal justice system when they are older.

The association seeks to support & befriend these children in many ways; the first of which is to give each child a monetary award to continue his/her education in the school they attend in their home town/village. Next we encourage the child to write to their sponsor so that a relationship is established and the child gains more confidence that he/she is accepted by society. Thirdly, we ask the child to name an adult close to them who can act as a 'befriender' and help them resolve conflicting emotions and guide get through issues they may face.

These children are challenged in many ways. Having a parent in prison, they often have to live a double life in school and sometimes not even the Principals are aware of it. In the neighborhood too they have to live under the stigma of being the ‘child of a criminal’ and the inner suffering of these children is such, they can hardly talk about it.