More than 20,000 New Zealand children have a parent in prison and the extra difficulties they face are recognised in Children of Prisoners Week.

A range of initiatives are taking place in Corrections-run prisons to mark Children of Prisoners Week (22-28 September).

At Waikeria Prison, for example, activities for visits include providing chalk boards and chalk, children’s books, toys, as well as allowing low security prisoners to have increased physical contact with their children.

Left to right: Ian Bourke (Regional Commissioner), Verna McFelin (CEO and Founder of Pillars) and Graeme Hunter (Residential Manager, Christchurch Men's Prison)Prisoners from Christchurch Men’s Prison have gifted a hand-carved swing set to Pillars, the charity which supports children and families of prisoners, for their Christchurch house.

Corrections has worked with Pillars to develop a set of brochures, which contain valuable information about many issues affecting children who have a parent in prison, and these have been delivered to each prison.

As well, prisoners will have the opportunity to send their child a specially designed card this week.

More than 20,000 children in New Zealand have a parent in prison and research shows that without proper support the children of prisoners can fall into social isolation that drives offending. They are around seven times more likely to go to prison as adults than other children.

Children of prisoners can face a sentence of their own in many ways, suffering emotional trauma, loss, grief, shame, stigma, confusion and sudden changes in their world.

Pillars works to break the cycle of imprisonment by helping children of prisoners get the support services they need to develop into healthy adults. The organisation helps children maintain contact with a parent who is in prison and works to improve the community’s understanding of the needs of children of prisoners.