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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. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concluded that the families of prisoners were vulnerable to financial insecurity, poverty, debt and housing instability and more likely to experience poor mental health exacerbated by stress. Imprisonment can also have a particularly profound impact on children. Children of imprisoned parents are at least twice as likely to experience mental health problems, be affected by poverty and become isolated and stigmatised.

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 giving a collective voice to organisations that support the families of prisoners. Clinks aims to:

  • Influence policy and practice development through strengthening the evidence base for investing in good quality family support.
  • Showcase good and innovative practice both inside of prisons and in the community.
  • Improve 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 Richard.Nicholls@ or Oonagh Ryder, Policy Officer at


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.

Unlocking Potential - The Clinks Taskforce was set up to identify ways in which offenders, former offenders and their families can make a positive contribution to the policies, services and practices that affect them, both in prison and the community. It was formed in part because of recognition that in other fields of work, services are known to be more effective when users are consulted about how they should be developed and delivered. This report is the outcome of the Taskforce’s deliberations.

Double Trouble - This report sets out the findings of research into the resettlement needs and experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic prisoners and ex-prisoners.

Family Engagement in the Resettlement Process - This research seeks to understand resettlement provision for black, Asian and minority ethnic offenders from a family perspective. This report is based on interviews with families who have highlighted the problems they face in supporting their family member.

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.