Prisons should support offenders’ family relationships

Scotland’s example of having staff in prisons dedicated to
supporting offenders’ family relationships should be adopted
across the rest of the UK, according to a new report by the Prison
Reform Trust, writes Craig Kenny.

Family Contact Development Officers (FCDOs) should be statutory
posts across the UK – as in Scotland – and should also be
given ring-fenced funding, a dedicated base and phone line, and
training in child protection issues, the campaign group

Two thirds of female prisoners have dependent children, while
over a third of young offenders of both sexes are also parents.

Interviews with FCDOs, prisoners and their families in all
Scottish prisons and five elsewhere in the UK revealed that
dedicated parental contact visits are not always available, and
that visiting areas often lack play areas, toys and facilities.

Prison overcrowding exacerbates the problem, says the report.
“While prisoners are being moved round the system and people
are being held further and further from their homes, relationships
with families will suffer.”

However, previous research indicates that prisoners who maintain
good family ties are six times less likely to re-offend.

In a foreword, Scotland’s chief inspector of prisons
Andrew McLellan says the report’s conclusions are applicable
across the UK.

The report was presented at a Prison Reform Trust conference in
Edinburgh today.

* Keeping in Touch: The Need for Family Support Work in Prison,
by Dr Nancy Loucks (Prison Reform Trust)

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