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supporting voluntary organisations that work with offenders and their families

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Supporting the families of prisoners

Families are often the main source of emotional, practical and financial support for prisoners, from the time of arrest to after release. Family members care for the children and other vulnerable relatives of prisoners, send money, clothes and books into prison and help ex-prisoners find work and accommodation. Evidence shows that strong family relationships play a key role in reducing the possibility of reoffending.

However, the impact of a family member’s imprisonment can be considerable. The recent Farmer Review highlighted the importance of maintaining and developing family relationships and stated that it must be explicitly stated as part of the proposed purpose of prison. Farmer said that each prison must include a ‘local family offer’ to ensure that effective family work is delivered inside prisons and that the Ministry of Justice should ensure that the importance of family ties is a golden thread running through the new policy frameworks.

Some families, particularly those already subject to discrimination and prejudice, may experience additional disadvantage. Irish Traveller prisoners described separation from their family as the worst part of incarceration. However, relationships can be challenged by lack of literacy (required for applications for Visiting Orders and letter-writing), probation conditions that prevent prisoners living with families on camps and the cost of travelling to visits for families made even more impoverished by the main breadwinner’s imprisonment.

The Young Review explored issues relating to imprisoned Muslim men and their families; ‘forgiveness from and acceptance back into the family… offered offenders key choices’ including access to positive social networks or potential stigma and isolation from the community and families for behaviour 'viewed as un-Islamic'.

                                                                                                                                                              Obstacles to effective services to support families include inadequate funding, inconsistent commissioning and lack of knowledge about the complexity of different families’ needs.

What is Clinks doing?

Clinks is:

  • Working with HMPPS on their Family Strategy group to ensure that the recommendations of the Farmer Review are taken forward. A paper is forthcoming.
  • Giving a collective voice to organisations that support the families of prisoners
  • Facilitating a voluntary sector providers’ forum for families organisations delivering services in prisons and the community
  • Showcasing good and innovative practice both inside of prisons and in the community.
  • Improving the awareness and knowledge of organisations outside the Criminal Justice System of the needs of the families of prisoners.

For further information, contact Richard Nicholls, Head of Operations at



The Farmer Review
Published August 2017. Lord Farmer, working in partnership with Clinks, was commissioned to chair 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

Event Report - Supporting positive relationships between prisoners and their families -  In February 2016, the Ministry of Justice organised a roundtable to explore the impact of prison reform on the families of prisoners. The event was attended by Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove and Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation, Andrew Selous. Chaired by Clinks CEO, Anne Fox, there were contributions from practitioners, academics, prison staff and families supported by Pact. The Ministry of Justice officials asked specific questions about the barriers and challenges to maintaining family ties, examples of good practice and evaluation. The briefing offers a more detailed response to the questions asked at the roundtable.

What works in local commissioning - A 360º perspective - This report summarises four pieces of research commissioned by Clinks to establish how a variety of services are commissioned for those leaving prison and serving sentences in the community. In order to give a ‘360’ degree view of the issues identified, each service is illustrated by case studies, giving perspectives from staff delivering the services, users of each service and those who commission the offender.

The Young Review - This report highlights the specific experiences and needs of black and Muslim men aged 18-24 in the Criminal Justice System, and sets out a series of recommendations that aim to ensure that action takes place to address unequal outcomes; from prison to resettlement.