The introduction to the 2014 joint thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation and Ofsted on resettlement provision for adult offenders features the striking statement that “An offender’s family are the most effective resettlement agency”.
This thematic review found that the strength of family relationships during imprisonment had an impact on what happened when people left prison and whether they worked, trained and had somewhere stable to call home.
The voluntary sector has long been focussed on the desistance journey and we know that families and familial bonds really matter. Relationships, the strength of them, the ability to make and maintain them matters when someone is trying to turn their life around. This is well evidenced and is the core focus of a number of Clinks members’ work. We know the adverse impact of imprisonment on families and relationships, which is often compounded by negative experiences of the Criminal Justice System. The dedicated staff that work alongside families and people going through the justice system tell us how hard it is to maintain family ties, how much of a strain it puts on all aspects of family life, but also how important it often is to them to keep that contact alive.
At Clinks we’re committed to supporting the voluntary sector that has pioneered family-focussed work in the justice system. Over the past year we have had a dedicated worker, Patrice Lawrence, engaging with the sector, listening to it, and supporting it. We have supported a focus on the commissioning of family services in prison through a subgroup of the RR3 advisory group, chaired by Diane Curry from Partners of Prisoners (POPS), which has taken every opportunity to bring a focus on the value of a holistic approach that supports families at every stage of the Criminal Justice System.
One such opportunity has presented itself recently in the form of the passion and commitment of Conservative Peer Lord Farmer. Lord Farmer, himself having experienced some challenges in his early family life, advocates government policy and services which strengthen family ties as a way to help people to realise their true life chances. In partnership with Clinks, he is chairing an independent review to investigate how supporting men in prison in England and Wales to engage with their families can reduce reoffending and assist in addressing intergenerational crime.
Clinks is delighted to take up the position of deputy chair for the review. We are also very grateful for support from the National Offender Management Service and Lady Edwina Grosvenor which has also enabled Clinks to act as the review’s secretariat with a particular focus on engaging with the lived experience of men in prison, their families, and the voluntary sector organisations that work with them every day.
We will support the call for evidence in a number of ways – visiting different prisons across England and Wales, meeting men and their families, staff from the prison service and organisation who support them in prison and in the community. We are aided by a task group of practitioners from the prison service and the voluntary sector. We will have evidence sessions inviting people and organisations with expertise on specific issues (such as how to support those with a history of the care system to build, rebuild and maintain close relationships which aid desistance) to present to the task group.
Today we are launching the call for evidence, and we want to hear from you and the people you support. On the Clinks website you’ll find the questions we’re asking and you’ll also find questionnaires for men in prison and their families to complete and feed in their views and experiences. We’re really grateful to Inside Time and National Prison Radio for their help in promoting the review.
The review will conclude its work in January 2017 and submit a report to the Ministry of Justice. This will happen at a critical time when prison reform is on the agenda and rehabilitation is being looked at so closely. We also know that the family support services prisons offer are under review and are due to be recommissioned next year, so we feel this is a useful time to have a focussed review that can make clear recommendations.
The call for evidence is open until Monday 17th October and we want to hear from you about what works, what doesn’t and what changes might be made.
I look forward to hearing from you!