The Ministry of Justice commissioned me to carry out two Reviews on the importance of families and other relationships to prisoners’ rehabilitation. The Ministry of Justice’s own research shows that for a prisoner who receives visits from a family member, the odds of reoffending are 39% lower than for those who do not.
The first report, on male prisoners (pdf), found an unacceptable inconsistency of respect for the role families can play in boosting rehabilitation and assisting in resettlement across the prison estate. I emphasised a very simple principle of reform that needs to be ‘a golden thread running through the prison system and the agencies that surround it…that relationships are fundamentally important if people are to change.’ Recommendations from this first Review all pushed towards ensuring prison governors, management teams and prison officers of all ranks, as well as the voluntary sector organisations that work in prisons, were better able to work together to help families and prisoners keep in touch and strengthen their relationships.
The second report on female offenders (pdf) recommended ways to ensure they could continue in their roles as primary carers and sustain or build other supportive relationships – whether they were in prison, serving sentences in the community or diverted away from the criminal justice system and into rehabilitative services. Issues around women’s relationships directly affect their likelihood of reoffending significantly more frequently than is the case with men.
They have often experienced abuse and trauma which can profoundly impact their ability to develop and sustain healthy, trusting relationships, and this abuse can be ongoing. Therefore, it is essential to know which relationships are ‘rehabilitation assets’ in the life of a female offender and which are toxic
I continue to work with the Prison and Probation Service and the Ministry of Justice to implement the recommendations from both Reviews and regular updates are made available for public scrutiny.