We welcome the news that the government plans to open nine new prisons to replace outdated Victorian institutions and use the proceeds of the land sold to build more modern facilities in less expensive areas. 

However, we must sound a note of caution regarding the possible unintended consequences of such a policy. With the government planning to close a number of facilities and move approximately 10,000 inmates, many prisoners will find themselves further away from their families. Further damage may be caused to family life and our efforts to maintain and strengthen family relationships may be further hampered, thus having an effect contrary to that intended.

We know many prisoners already have very limited contact with their families, due to the cost and difficulties faced by families in making long journeys. We have supported many prisoners and family members to maintain or restore relationships and we know that this work reduces re-offending and is effective in reducing the risk of self-harm and suicide. Our work is not only about reducing crime, but is also about reducing the risk that children of prisoners will follow in their parents’ footsteps.

We understand that there are many challenges to improving the fabric and cost-effectiveness of the prison estate and something must be done, but we must develop a strategy to minimise and mitigate the risks to family life. Whilst our preference would be for most prisoners to be held as close to home as possible, we recognise that there are budgetary and practical challenges and difficult decisions to be taken. We hope that the government can work together with charities like ourselves to develop a practical plan that will support and strengthen family ties in order to reduce re-offending, reduce the risk of inter-generational offending, and to keep people in prison safe.

To find out more about the work we do in prisons to strengthen family ties and reduce reoffending, please click here.