Breaking the cycle of offending

Angry, shocked, scared, emotionally disturbed and bewildered. These are just some of the emotions children experience as they watch a parent being arrested. Being witness to a parent being handcuffed is traumatic, and the long-lasting effect of imprisonment can leave children of prisoners alienated and stigmatised.

Research shows that children of prisoners are about nine times more likely than other children to be imprisoned later in life as they find themselves in a situation they didn’t choose – and yet have to face a life sentence of social deprivation.

Helping to bring stability into the lives of some of the most vulnerable children aged five to 17 through one-on-one mentoring is Pillars. A non-government national organisation that provides long-term, specialised wraparound support for the children and families of prisoners, Pillars seeks to break the cycle of offending.

Last year Pillars received a grant from Auckland Airport Community Trust towards its family wraparound service based in Manukau.

“At any given time, there are around 20,000 at-risk Kiwi kids that have their parents in prison; out of which 5,000 are in South Auckland alone,” says mentoring coordinator Corrina Dixon.

By providing children of prisoners with a positive mentor, they are given the opportunity to reach their full potential – and by doing so breaking the inter-generational mind-set that often leads to the continuation of the poverty and crime cycle. 

Mentoring also benefits families. One young mother credits Pillars with turning her life around. Struggling to cope with her two children on her own and often feeling panicked, depressed and helpless, she’s now a confident mother with a positive view of the future.

Thanks to the Auckland Airport Community Trust funding, 41 families and whānau in the area of benefit who are caring for children with a parent in prison received short-, medium- and long-term support – with 77 volunteer mentors giving more than 10,000 hours to support children of prisoners.

Corrina believes that it takes a lot of courage and commitment for everyone to come to the table. “It’s very brave for both the mentors and the families of offenders to come forward. Having a mentor in their life is very empowering and helps with confidence and self-esteem.”

This story appears in the Auckland Airport Community Trust's 2017 Annual Report.