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Utilising family bonds to assist in the rehabilitation of parents in prison is something that should be run across the entire prison estate, asserts the government. 

After all, there are an estimated 200,000 children in the UK who have a parent in prison.

But, what are prisons in England and Wales doing to achieve this? There’s no question that making visits less challenging for the children and their parents is beneficial. 

Since writing our last blog on the subject, HMP Parc at Bridgend, which is home to 1,600 prisoners, has received praise from prison inspectors for its “innovative and radical” work with prisoners’ children, noting it was “probably the best we have seen”. 

The 60-bed family inventions unit opened in 2010, and it now provides a broad range of programmes for inmates to help them maintain and improve family relationships. 

Over a year, 69% of prisoners at Parc received regular visits from their family compared to an average of 48% across the remainder of prisons in England and Wales. 

As reported by the BBC, Corin Morgan-Armstrong, head of family interventions, said:

“It's about improving the future outcomes of these children, most of whom will have negative, pre-determined outcomes because of their parental situation."

It’s been a subject the Ministry of Justice has been keen to explore in recent months. In February, at a round table hosted by the then Secretary of State for Justice, Micheal Gove, a number of examples of good practice in maintaining contact with families were discussed, which we’ve explore in more depth below:

Low literacy

Low literacy remains a big challenge for prisoners, including a significant number of Gypsy, Traveller and Romany (GTR) prisoners. Clinks reports that, HMP Ford, has developed a model of good practice for working with GTR prisoners. Recognising that the combination of poor literacy, a nomadic lifestyle and the cost of calling mobile phones, were hindering family ties, the prison introduced the Gypsy PIN. This allows GTR prisoners to transfer additional funds from their private funds onto their PIN number. 

HMP Lowdham Grange has installed telephones in prisoners’ cells, where they are allowed to make calls to approved numbers, which are paid for in advance and monitored. 

48 hour visits

HMP Askham Grange’s Acorn House initiative enables mothers and children to stay together for 48 hours. Although there is no specific criteria for selecting mothers, they must work with the Family Learning Team, which often involves input from those working in offender health

Third sector support

Barnardo’s has two workers based in HMP Hewell and HMP Oakwood, who work with the prisons’ offender health management team to provide emotional and practical support for imprisoned parents. They also offer individual therapy session for school-aged children affected by imprisonment. 

Similarly, the Prison Family Support Alliance delivers family services in prisons by sharing good practice, and has introduced Family Engagement Workers into prisons whose role it is to work with them at the beginning of their sentence, which is when they are most at risk of losing contact with their family. They are also able to help identify those who may have specific health requirements; for example those with substance misuse issues. 

Commissioned by NHS England, the sentence is expected to be rolled-out from 2017 to 2018, which can be replicated, scaled or adopted for use across the entire prison estate.

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