The Forgotten Victims of our Correction System: The Case of Children of imprisoned parents in Kenya

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Interdisciplinary Journal on the African Child


Imprisonment has been used as a means of punishment and correction since the 18th Century. Different professionals have discussed the role of imprisonment as punishment and how it has reduced crime and rehabilitated offenders, but criminologists have paid little attention to the effects of imprisonment on the children of imprisoned parents despite their magnitude. These children, whose number and condition are not well known, are referred to as “the forgotten victims of the system of punishment”. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the plight of these millions of children. Using Kenya as an example, the paper assessed the effects of imprisonment of parent offenders on the life of their children, and the readiness of the justice system and child welfare agencies to protect them. The data for this paper was collected from three government departments and an ex-prisoner, and was supplemented by secondary data from a review of relevant literature relevant. The study found that imprisonment of parents deprived children of their primary caregiver and had social, economic and psychological effects on them. The study affirmed other studies that suggested that the number and status of these children is not known and that government departments responsible for the welfare of children intervene only when the courts involve them. It further established that the departments lacked policy and capacity to attend to the plight of these children and policies to guide any needed intervention. The study recommended that, since it is hard to reconcile the punishment of offenders and the welfare of their children, legislation should be reviewed to make provision for the care of these children. There is a great need for collaborative efforts by different child welfare agencies to address gaps in services provided to prisoners’ children and for more research to expose the plight of parent offenders’ children.


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Imprisonment, Offender, Justice system, Child welfare


Mutunga, D.K (2018) The Forgotten Victims of our Correctional System: A Case of Children of Imprisoned Parents in Kenya, Interdisciplinary Journal of the African Child (IJAC) Integrating Theory and Practice. Special edition with a focus on the best interest of children in Justice System. Published: December 2018.