On Tuesday 5th September, Clinks attended a launch event for the final report of the Farmer Review at the Centre for Social Justice. The event was attended by the Minister for Prisons and Probation, Sam Gyimah, officials from the Ministry of Justice and HM Prisons and Probation Service, and people with experience of the criminal justice system, including ex-prisoners and family members of people in prison.
“Prisoners need relationships to motivate them and give them hope. They are no different to any other human being.” - Lord Farmer
Lord Farmer gave an overview of the findings and recommendations of his report, emphasising the fundamental importance of family relationships to reducing reoffending and preventing the intergenerational impact of imprisonment. He drew attention to research demonstrating that men who receive visits in prison are 39% less likely to re-offend and discussed the potential for family relationships to motivate men in prison to engage in positive activities. He also emphasised the importance of family relationships for safety in prisons, highlighting the review’s findings that better communication with families can help prisons to reduce levels of suicide, self-harm and violence.
Lord Farmer went on to describe some of the good practice he encountered in the course of the review, much of which was led by the voluntary sector, such as the provision of family engagement workers, parenting courses and visitor centres. He gave an outline of the headline recommendation of his report, aimed at achieving consistency in family support across the prison estate. This recommendation suggests the Ministry of Justice should ensure that every prison has a visitor centre and visiting services; a staffing structure in place to support people visiting prisons; extended visits; family learning services; and a ‘gateway’ communication system to ensure that family members are able to report welfare concerns to prison staff and that these concerns are recorded and acted upon.
Lord Farmer was followed by Sam Gyimah, who welcomed the review’s final report, saying,
“…while it is the state that incarcerates offenders, it is families and communities who accept them back into their midst at the end of their sentence. That means a prisoner’s family is the most effective resettlement agency we have – as the prison inspectorate, the probation service, and Ofsted all agree.”
Responding to questions from the event attendees, Lord Farmer said he was encouraged by both David Lidington (Secretary of State for Justice) and Sam Gyimah’s response to the report and will continue to engage with the Ministry of Justice on their plans for the implementation of his recommendations.
Hearing from the task group
Turning to practical examples of how to improve support for family and social ties for people in prison, the event concluded with speeches from two members of the review’s task group with significant expertise in the area. Corin Morgan-Armstrong, Head of Family Interventions at HMP Parc, described the process of developing a culture which values family ties within a prison and the impact that the family services provided at HMP Parc has had on the men held there and their families. Diane Curry, Chief Executive of Partners of Prisoners, spoke of previous findings in the area of family relationships for people in prison and emphasised the importance of ensuring that the recommendations of the Farmer Review are acted upon by the Ministry of Justice and HM Prisons and Probation Service.
This week, Clinks has published a briefing for its members on the review’s findings and recommendations. We will continue to champion the work of the voluntary sector in this area and look forward to working with Lord Farmer and the Ministry of Justice to encourage the change needed to ensure that positive relationships are placed at the heart of work to reduce re-offending and support people in prison.