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Good practice in projects working with prisoners' families

Barry, Monica (2009) Good practice in projects working with prisoners' families. [Report]

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The value of addressing the root causes of offending and understanding factors which encourage desistance from crime is becoming all the more apparent amongst policy makers, practitioners and academics alike. Positive family ties, not least those which can be maintained whilst someone is in prison, strengthen family relationships and the likelihood of reduced offending on release, but also improve relationships between prisoners and prison staff (Loucks, 2004). However, whilst a growing body of academic and policy literature relating to imprisonment focuses on the value of working with prisoners' families as a means of encouraging longer-term desistance for the prisoner, it often fails to highlight the inherent need of agencies to address the shorter-term problems facing families themselves where one member is incarcerated. This latter gap in addressing the needs of families of prisoners which are 'imprisonment-related' can be most readily addressed by the presence of visitor centres at prisons (Loucks, 2002; 2004). Research in California suggested that visitor centres often provide the only means of support and encouragement to prisoners families (Loucks, 2004). Nacro (2000) found that families of prisoners are highly unlikely to seek such support within their own communities and that visitor centres are not only readily accessible during visiting times for families potentially needing support, but also provide a means for community-based agencies to engage with this otherwise 'difficult to reach' group.