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
    recommends.

    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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