Having a loved one caught up in the criminal justice system can be a scary and confusing experience. We know that having someone to talk to who is impartial, sympathetic and non-judgmental can be a huge help. 

Our helpline is a free and confidential service, and our helpline volunteers can offer practical and emotional support, information and advice to anyone who is affected by imprisonment, in a straightforward, non-judgemental way.

Your advice and guidance has been invaluable. It’s a very frightening situation to be in and wonderful to know you are there

Contact us

You can reach the Pact Helpline on 0808 808 3444 Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm. You can also email us on helpline@prisonadvice.org.uk or fill in our webform by clicking here.

Diane's Story

When Diane rang the helpline she was extremely upset and distressed about her son Gary who is serving a twelve year sentence in prison. The last time she had visited him he had lost a lot of weight and looked pale and withdrawn – he didn’t seem to be engaging in any activities and she was concerned about his mental health.

When she spoke to Jane, Pact’s helpline worker, she told her that she was blaming herself, and couldn’t face talking to her friends and family about her situation. She felt completely alone, with no one and nowhere to turn to.

As well as providing a non-judgmental listening ear, Jane explained what she would do to help. 


Jane told Diane that she would make contact with Charlotte, Pact's Family Engagement Worker who was working inside the prison and would make her aware of Diane's concerns. Charlotte was able to reach out to Gary directly, going to visit him on the wing and spent time chatting with him, making sure he was OK. Charlotte also spoke with the prison healthcare team and Safer Custody lead. She initiated the process called ACCT which stands for Assessment, Care in Custody & Teamwork to ensure that Gary's needs would be recognised. When Jane reported this back to Diane she was relieved. 

Jane wanted to make sure that Diane had ongoing support. She invited Diane to Pact’s Peer Support Group, where people going through similar situations meet up and share their experiences with each other in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Diane was very keen to get involved and in the last two months, she has attended two of the Peer Support Group sessions.

Today, Diane is doing well and is starting to feel a lot less alone, having met many other mothers in similar circumstances. She has also stayed in touch with Jane and told her that since the prison was made aware of Gary's issues, his mental and physical health has seen a marked improvement – through Charlotte, Pact's Family Engagement Worker, he has been connected with the proper support that he needs and now when she visits him he no longer looks pale and withdrawn. Diane feels they are both now in a place where they are better able to cope with his sentence.