It is generally understood that prisoners’ families, particularly the children, are as likely to be affected by imprisonment as prisoners are. It is also accepted that it is difficult to maintain family ties and at times it can feel as though the whole family are serving the sentence also.
It is for this reason that many prisons in England and Wales have incorporated Family Visit Programmes into their regimes so that prisoners and their families can spend quality time together.
The visits usually provide a list of activities such as: music, story time with library staff, arts corner, gym equipment and advice and information such as health advice. Refreshments are usually available throughout the event and of course a buffet style lunch is generally the norm.
All day family visits and child-centred family visits can help to strengthen and maintain family ties, reduce fear and tension associated with prison visiting and ensure that the families of prisoners, particularly children, are met with a warm and friendly welcome to the prison.
‘All day’ and ‘child-centred’ family visits are designed to be more relaxed than regular prison visits. Prisoners are able to interact more freely with their children and family members on the visit as they are permitted to get up from their seats. Prisoners can visit the buffet that has usually been provided and/or attend the variety of activities laid on by the prison for prisoners and their families to enjoy.
Family visits can also take the pressure off families in the visits room, as children would otherwise be expected to sit still at a visits table for long periods of time. The child-centred family visit in particular provides an environment in the visits room or outside, weather permitting, which is enhanced by play, thus encouraging parents to engage with their children and build positive relations that are not always possible during a normal domestic visit.
In some cases family photographs are available to capture the day and great for those serving lengthy sentences who have young children. At times, families travel vast distances including from overseas for a prison visit; so a family day visit can make the journey all the more worthwhile.
All family and child-centred family visits are available to prisoners who have enhanced status and therefore are part of the prison incentive scheme. Requests can only be made by the prisoner via the usual ‘complaints & procedures’ application form which is usually available on prison wings.
If you are interested or need more information about Family Visit Days, they are described in some detail in the Prison Service Instruction 16/2011 ‘Providing Visits and Services to Visitors’.
Alternatively, get in touch with our office in London and we can answer your questions.