Children in the north east who have a parent in prison have created a new animated video about their ‘journey’ through the criminal justice system.
The youth team from charity Nepacs have worked collaboratively with Digital Voice for Communities on the DigitalMe programme to provide young people impacted by the imprisonment of a loved one with a safe and creative way to look at the different stages of the criminal justice system journey and how each one has impacted them in a variety of different ways (from pre-arrest through to resettlement of their parent back into the community). The DigitalMe approach of animating their self-portraits helps them anonymously share their experiences of the complexities and hidden stories of being directly impacted by parental imprisonment.
This is the second DigitalMe video created by Nepacs and young people with a parent in prison – the first one launched in 2021 focussed on the impact of parental imprisonment on a group of young people.
This new video, which was launched on 31 July 2023 allows young people to gain both an increased awareness of the similarities and difference between their experiences and those of their peers whilst crucially providing an honest and unfiltered account of how young people experience the criminal justice system as a child of a parent in prison. It will also help to raise awareness of the impact of imprisonment and the criminal justice system on children and young people.
Abdul Amin, Nepacs youth project worker said: “This project was delivered with five young people, aged 10 to 15 years, who are being supported by the Nepacs youth team. They came together for two sessions in October 2022 to create the animated video and were able to learn more about themselves individually as well as develop new relationships with one another.
“As the voice of children and young people can often be overlooked our DigitalMe projects allow young people to find their voice and share their story and be heard. The new video will now be used as a resource to work with young people and their families who are affected by parental imprisonment and to encourage agencies to provide more support for children going through this very difficult experience.”
Here are some of the quotes, shared during the project, by the young people on advice they would give to other young people in a similar situation:
“If I met another young person going through the same thing I’d say, don’t keep it to yourself and don’t push everyone away.”
“If I was to give advice to other young people I would say don’t ruin your life just because someone else has ruined theirs.”
“Don’t let people tell you you’re different and don’t believe anything you see on social media, it’s made of lies.”
“I’d tell other young people who find themselves in this situation to accept your own feelings, don’t question yourself.”
“Don’t be alone in your thoughts.”
“Learn to rely on your family, you aren’t alone and if bad things happen on social media then report them.”
Amanda Lacey, chief executive of Nepacs said: “We are excited to launch our new Digital Me animated video which has given a group of young people involved in our youth project the chance to talk about their personal journey through the criminal justice system when their parent went to prison.
“When a child experiences the imprisonment of a parent or close family member, they become subject to their own ‘hidden sentence’ which brings feelings of isolation, shame, confusion and abandonment without someone who can readily provide answers or a listening ear. This experience can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing, relationships, educational attainment and behaviour, and young people are vulnerable to bullying and victimisation if other children find out details of their family member being in prison.
“This thought-provoking video will not only be a valuable resource for our youth project when supporting young people and their families impacted by parental imprisonment, but we hope both of our DigitalMe videos will encourage agencies to identify children and young people who have experienced the traumatising event of a loved one going to prison at the earliest opportunity and to take a joined up approach to providing appropriate support to them and their families.”
Julie Nicholson, Managing Director of Digital Voice said: “We were blown away by the willingness of the young people to speak out about their experiences and their drive to effect change in the system. It has been brilliant working with nepacs and the young people they support so brilliantly on these projects and we are looking forward to working with them again in the near future. Their commitment to improving the lives of people affected by imprisonment is inspirational.”
The project was made possible thanks to funding from Movement for Good award from Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.