We know that improving the quality of engagement between a prisoner and their friends or family can be a positive influence on reducing reoffending. The Government is committed to implementing the recommendations set out by Lord Farmer in his report ‘The Importance of Strengthening Prisoners Family Ties to Prevent Reoffending and Reduce Intergenerational Crime’. Since the publication of the Farmer Review, progress continues to be made in implementing its recommendations. Through our reforms we are placing the importance of family relationships at the centre of our revised approach.
Governors are central to reforming our prisons because they are best placed to ensure the prison is safe and secure, and understand the rehabilitative needs of the offenders in their care. In October 2017, family budgets were devolved to Governors, which coincided with the commencement of new family services contracts. This has given Governors the ability to deliver tailored support for prisoners, helping them to build or maintain their ties with family or friends. An example of this is HMP Chelmsford, which recently adapted their prison library, making it child friendly, to enable prisoners to sit down and read with their children.
To support this new approach, from April 2018 all prison Governors will now be required to produce local Strategies, which set out how they will support prisoners to improve the level of engagement with their friends and families. This will be underpinned by a guidance document, which was issued in December and a new Family Policy Framework, which will be published in Autumn of this year. These will help standardise the quality of services provided across all prisons, helping to strengthen relationships between prisoners, their family and friends.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) has appointed a lead inspector to Children and Families work. HMIP has updated its website to demonstrate good practice recognised in inspections since the publication of the Farmer Review. https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/our-expectations/prison-expectations/rehabilitation-and-release-planning/children-and-families-and-contact-with-the-outside-world/
There are a handful of recommendations, which will require longer-term structural reform to be delivered, including in-cell telephony and the use of video calling technology, such as Skype. We are in the process of developing options for these proposals.
In addition to the recommendations set out in the Farmer review relationships between prisoners and their families are maintained through a range of visiting opportunities. In addition to statutory entitlement to visits under the Prison Rules 1999, prisoners may also be granted additional visits through local privilege schemes. In a speech on the 6th of March at the Royal Society of Arts, the Secretary of State expressed his commitment to creating incentives that support and encourage offenders to turn their lives around. This includes offering access to technology like skype allowing prisoners contact with their families that they would otherwise be unable to have.
Release on temporary licence (ROTL) is another way for suitable prisoners to maintain family ties, and we will be exploring in the coming months how best to ensure access to ROTL for those who would benefit, within a robust risk assessment framework.