Yesterday, [THURS] the Prison Service hosted its first ever ‘family visits’ – sessions in which inmates can spend time with their families and children with less formalities and no fixed seating plan.
The service hopes that by creating a more relaxed environment it will strengthen family ties and reduce the fear some children have about visiting parents or relatives in prison.
According to the 2018 Jersey Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements report ‘family support’ was the key protective factor to prevent re-offending ahead of employment and co-operation with support agencies.
As part of the initiative, therapy dogs will be available to interact with children to help them feel less intimidated and a ‘small buffet’, paid for by inmates, will also be offered. It will also be possible for prisoners to have photographs taken with their families. Prisoners will be able to apply for so-called family visits once every three months.
The scheme is being supported by Catholic charity Caritas, representatives from which will be present during any meetings. Caritas already supports relatives of inmates in the community.
Prisoner governor and head of the Prison Service Nick Cameron said the scheme could help children and young people feel less intimated by prison but also help tackle ‘intergenerational cycles of offending’.
He said: ‘We want to enhance how prisoners who are parents can interact with their children during visits.
‘Prisoners will not be confined to tables and will be able to play with their children. This will strengthen child and parent bonds, allow prisoners to practise improved skills acquired through the parenting courses we have run with The Bridge, and also reduce the fear children may feel when visiting a parent at the prison.
‘We are focusing on improving parenting skills and how we as a service look after the wellbeing of children and young adult visitors. We know that a prisoner with a strong family support is far less likely to re-offend and will be motivated to succeed on reintegration to the community.
‘We also want to do our best to break intergenerational cycles of offending.’