How has the pandemic affected prisoners and their families?

The impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on prisoners and their families has been huge. It is rarely talked about on television or in the national news media, but Pact are on the front line supporting those who may have nowhere else to turn.

As Lord Farmer concluded in his landmark review, prisoners’ family relationships are “the golden thread” to prison reform. Maintaining family ties, we know, reduces reoffending by 39%, which is why the prison service and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have worked hard to put into place his recommendations over the past 4 years.  

But sadly, due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020, prisoners’ family ties have been all but severed, and prisoners continue to spend 23 hours a day in their cells. Positive cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in prisons and, to control the spread of the virus, prisons had to take the difficult decision to stop social visits. Other than a brief period over the summer, prisoners have spent an agonizing 12 months without in-person contact with their loved ones. 

From the first days of the national lockdown in March 2020, Pact has been working tirelessly to help prisoners and their families to stay connected. In February 2021, one family member told us: 

I’ve now had a total of 4.5 hours of video calls compared to what would have been 98 hours of face-to-face visits. We have been lucky; it was rolled out in August at our prison. Some prisons didn’t get started until November/ December.

Although many of our staff are working from home, we have come up with new and creative solutions to continue supporting the prisoners we are working with. Our volunteers have had to pause their regular activities but many have taken on some additional training during this time to put their skills to use elsewhere in Pact.

How has Pact responded?

During the pandemic Pact has continued to deliver our life-changing services:

  • We have introduced Pact Packets, a collection of in-cell activities including a dedicated booklet to help prisoners write to their children and families.
  • We have been offering emergency Welfare Grants to help those being released from prison during the pandemic.
  • We have kept the Prisoners’ Families Helpline running remotely, without a single break in service.
  • We have expanded our befriending service so that it is offered nationally, rather than just in London.

More activity packs received today; the residents are really enjoying the distractions! Thank you to everyone who is sending them , they most definitely are being used and are very much appreciated!"

- HMP Sudbury on Twitter

For our supporters: we couldn't do it without you

We thank you so much for continuing to walk alongside prisoners and their families during this incredibly difficult time. We are incredibly grateful for every donation you make. We’d like you to know that things are taking a little bit longer to process at the moment as our Supporter Relations team are working from home and therefore any cheques sent to the office will only be picked up once a week. Please bear with us: we will acknowledge your gift, but it will just take us a bit more time than usual.