I have been advised that the Irish Prison Service does not specifically record details from prisoners regarding their number of children. It has been estimated, however, that approximately 200,000 adult family and friend visits to prisoners take place every year and about 80,000 children visits. Based on these estimates, and the age profile of prisoners, the number of children who have a parent in custody is likely to be a substantial figure.
International research has found that good family ties can significantly reduce a prisoner's risk of re-offending. Every effort is accordingly made by the Irish Prison Service to encourage and support prisoners in maintaining positive relationships with their families. As I have already stated, the Irish Prison Service facilitate a very significant number of visits by families to prisoners every year. Prisoners are also entitled to regular telephone and correspondence contact with their families.
The IPS also contributes funding to a number of projects, such as Dillons Cross in Cork and Bedford Row in Limerick, which provide supportive programmes to the families of prisoners in the community.
A range of parenting courses are also available to prisoners, primarily through the Education Units in prisons. There are no figures available on the number of participants involved in these modules as, in many cases, the parenting skills are included in broader personal development courses.