Skip to main content Skip to sitemap
Transformative power of family ties in prison rehabilitation

21 December 2023

The transformative power of family ties in prison rehabilitation

Within the confines of prisons, where the connection to the outside world is often limited, the importance of sustaining family ties emerges as a key, yet often undervalued aspect in the rehabilitation process. For many prisoners, these connections represent more than just links to their former lives; they are crucial drivers in their rehabilitation journey.

Statistics that speaks volumes

Maintaining strong family relationships for prisoners as a major contributor to desistance is widely accepted. Individuals who receive regular family visits in prison have a 39% lower likelihood of reoffending. This figure is not just a mere number; it’s a testament to the transformative power of family ties. It underscores a fundamental truth in the rehabilitation process

  • 45% of prisoners lose contact with their family whilst in prison
  • 54% of offenders have children under 18 when they enter custody
  • Two thirds of women prisoners are the primary carer of a child

The impact on families and society

The transformative power of family ties in prison rehabilitation is evident not only in prison but it also has a ripple effect on families and the broader community. The implications for the children of prisoners are particularly profound. A child with an imprisoned parent is three times more likely to engage in anti-social behaviour and develop mental health issues. Alarmingly, 65% of boys with a parent in prison might eventually follow the same path.

From a societal perspective, nurturing these connections is a proactive step to help to reduce recidivism. Lower reoffending rates mean safer communities and reduced burdens on the criminal justice system. It’s a cycle of positivity that starts with a simple yet powerful act – a family visit.

Recognising diverse family units

It’s crucial to acknowledge that transformative power of family ties in prison rehabilitation, even when many prisoners come from non-traditional family structures. These should be recognised and accommodated in the context of family support and prison visits. This inclusion is vital considering that not all family relationships are positive or conducive to rehabilitation.  In some cases, family relationships may have been directly or indirectly affected by the prisoner’s offence. They may have contributed to the offending behaviour.  Maintaining family contact, where appropriate, is recognised as a key source of support for prisoners and their families, both during and after imprisonment.

Challenges and solutions

But despite their importance, maintaining family connections during imprisonment is fraught with challenges. The geographical distance of prisons, make visits difficult and expensive. The emotional strain on families, particularly children, can too be significant.

Innovations, however are making a difference. From enhanced resources in visitor centres to parenting programmes, efforts are being made to support family ties. In the UK, the charity ‘Children Heard and Seen’ offers support nationally for children with a parent in prison and their family in the community, with a variety of tailored virtual and in person provision.

Technological advancements, like video conferencing, is widely available across various prison systems in the UK and Ireland. This technology bridges distances, allowing families who cannot travel to maintain contact. Initiatives like Storybook Dads and Storybook Mums enable imprisoned parents to connect with their children through recorded bedtime stories, fostering a sense of emotional connection and routine.

A call to action

Understanding the role of family connections in rehabilitation is just the first step. Change is needed to prioritise and facilitate family connections. This includes funding for programmes that support these connections and raising public awareness about the effects of parental imprisonment. Additionally, important is to develop frameworks that facilitate strong communication links between the various government bodies, including the Child Welfare system, the Criminal Justice system and the Department of Education. [Something that Cara can input and perhaps quote.]

Currently, children impacted by parental imprisonment are invisible, no government department holds responsibility for identifying and supporting them. Our aim is for a statutory mechanism that identifies children so they become entitled to pupil premium, allowing schools to implement the specific support needed’

Cara Mohan-Carr Lead Training and Development Co-ordinator, Children Heard and Seen

Reimagining prisons not merely as punitive spaces but as environments for potential transformation is essential. By nurturing family ties, we’re not just assisting prisoners, we are contributing to a more compassionate and rehabilitative justice system.

Behind every statistic is a human story, and in the context of rehabilitation, family ties play a significant role in offering hope and opportunities for positive change.

Related News