25% spouses, 11% children of prisoners harbour suicidal thoughts: Report
A child found it hard to come to terms with his father’s conviction in a rape case, and a father traumatised by his son’s incarceration refused vital, life-saving treatment. Life in prison is tough, but families of those imprisoned face great hardships too, finding the social ridicule, stress and financial problems hard to bear, reads a report, Clipped Wings - Impact Of Incarceration On Family Members Of Prisoners – An Exploratory Study, by the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA).
About 25% spouses and 11% children of prisoners exhibited suicidal tendencies, read the report, based on information gathered from 84 families of prisoners in Burail Jail willing to share their experiences out of 149 initially identified following interviews with 473 prisoners.
The report was part of a campaign launched by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in May 2019 to “Ascertain and provide need based intervention to family members of prisoners,” said researcher Amarinder Sharma, CJM-cum-secretary, DLSA.
Justice Jaswant Singh, judge, Punjab and Haryana high court-cum executive chairman, State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), Chandigarh, released the report on Thursday, in the presence of Mahavir Singh, member secretary, SLSA.
Referring to case studies, Neil Roberts, co-researcher and project coordinator, DLSA, said,“A child had suicidal thoughts as he struggled to accept his father’s conviction in a rape case; an elderly father discontinued his HIV treatment after his son was imprisoned; a newly-wed woman, whose husband was sent behind bars for life, was in a fix about her future.”
Of the 44 spouses interviewed, 25% had suicidal thoughts; 48% had increased levels of anger and 41% reported increased health problems. About 40% faced ridicule from their in-laws. Not only this, 75% said their incomes dwindled and 43% were forced to take up employment.
Apart from this, 70% of spouses “experienced fear” when thinking about their future and worrying about their children and spouse.
32% children drop out of school
Children were adversely affected too, with 32% dropping out of school and 11% harbouring suicidal thoughts
About 25% children out of a total of 53 respondents faced “peer ridicule”; 23% said they were forced to take up jobs; 36% felt socially isolated and 40% feared for the reputation of their family.
Of 84 respondents, 70% stated that they had increased expenditure after incarceration of a family member, 60% reported increased absenteeism from work, 78% of parents experienced heightened stress levels and 68% feared for the future of their ward, read the report.
About 56% were worried about their family’s reputation; 39% parents of prisoners experienced increased levels of social isolation, with 56% reporting that they were not getting attention from other people.
Siblings, too, were impacted, with 43% of 84 respondents saying they were forced to absent themselves from work and educational institutes, 46% faced social ridicule and 42% felt socially isolated.
Extending a helping hand
What made the project unique was the researchers tried to solve problems of families as well. For instance:
Among elderly parents, 17 were linked with departments concerned for widow/ old age pensions
Information on 10 families in need of financial assistance was sent to the Red Cross Society for action
Three children were readmitted to schools and one special child was admitted to the Government Rehabilitation Institute for Intellectual Disabilities (GRIID).
Three people were referred for (psychological) counselling as they were finding it difficult to accept the jail-term of their family member
Cases of 33 children in need of sponsorships were prepared and sent to the district child protection unit for help
About 22 cases of family members were linked with health services