Prison Advice and Care Trust
The Trust is funding PACT to trial the implementation of a key finding in the 2019 Farmer report: The Importance of Strengthening Female Offenders’ Family and other Relationships to Prevent Reoffending and Reduce Intergenerational Crime.
The project is employing dedicated social workers within 2 women’s prisons. The social workers will support the relationships between women prisoners and their children who remain and are cared for outside prison. This trial is being conducted with the support of the HMPP service and will be monitored by the Ministry of Justice.
Why is the Trust funding this work?
There is currently no funding from within the criminal justice system to trial this proposal from the Farmer Report and yet the implications for the children of women prisoners are so important that it is imperative that the proposal receives a properly funded and evaluated trial.
Stronger family relationships are proven to reduce reoffending and this in turn could have a very positive impact on children.
A UK Parliament report: ‘The Right to Family Life, Children Whose Mothers are in prison’, says:
‘Academic research has shown that children who experience a parent going to prison as a child have an increased likelihood of criminal offending than their peers and to have future problems. They have an increased likelihood of mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, dying before the age of 65; they are also more likely to earn less than their counterparts as adults, and stop education at a younger age than is the norm. A child with an imprisoned mother is likely to suffer more negative effects than a child with an imprisoned father’.
The impact on children when a mother is imprisoned is shocking and it is estimated that as many as 18,000 children a year are affected by maternal imprisonment. Even if women are detained for only a short period on remand, there can be a devastating effect on their ability to provide for their families. Women are more likely than men to be primary carers and mothers in prison experience significant anxiety because of the separation from their children.
Children frequently have to leave their family home and their education is disrupted when their mother goes into custody, indicating the tremendous upheaval to the whole family. Women are held, on average, 63 miles from their homes, with a significant number held more than 100 miles away (compared to an average of 50 miles for men). This distance with the associated costs, as well as concerns that prisons are unsuitable environments for children, are significant barriers to children visiting their mothers in custody.
The Farmer Report states that family and other relationships are ‘a golden thread running through the criminal justice system’. It recommends that women’s prisons in England should routinely employ social workers who can liaise between women inside and social services outside in the Local Authority where the prisoner’s family lives. This, says the report, would support ongoing relationships whilst the woman is in prison, and when she leaves prison this ongoing contact between social services professionals would put her in a much better place to integrate back into family life. It is this recommendation that PACT is being funded to trial in 2 prisons in the women’s estate.