Visitors' manifesto – families of prisoners call for change

A manifesto for change, developed by a group of families and friends of prisoners across the north east, sets out 16 priority areas where they feel the government could make improvements which would:

  • make it easier for children and families to visit their loved one in prison and help to maintain family ties during the sentence

  • give visitors and worried relatives more information about prison, procedures, and support that is available to help them survive the sentence.

The manifesto was produced in May 2015 following an event in Sunderland where families and friends of prisoners across the north east discussed how the government can change services for prison visitors for the better.

The 16 points for action are:

  1. Government funded family support worker for every jail

  2. Listen to families concerns about safer custody

  3. Consistent rules for ID

  4. More opportunities for contact between family members held in different prisons

  5. Involve families in sentence planning

  6. Adequate staffing levels in prisons to maintain safety standards

  7. Inform families when their loved one is moved to a different prison

  8. Ensure decent health care for prisoners

  9. Prisoners to be placed as close to home as possible

  10. Better information on visiting for family members

  11. Speed up decisions on releasing people held on indeterminate sentences who are over tariff

  12. Better access for visitors with a disability / sensory impairment

  13. Consistent visit entitlement across the prison estate

  14. Consistent Visitor Centre services across the country

  15. Ensure facilities for prompt booking of visits at every prison

  16. Prisons to contact family members to confirm safe arrival of loved one in custody

Every year thousands of families experience the impact of a custodial sentence. Despite having committed no offence themselves, those left behind can find themselves feeling isolated and bewildered by a system of which they have little or no understanding, and urgently requiring help and support. They may also experience social isolation and stigma as well as emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing problems.

We also know the important role of families in the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners. Therefore the needs of families of prisoners needs to be considered and services or support put in place to help them survive the sentence and overcome the many difficulties they are facing.

Nepacs is continuing to promote the families manifesto with MPs and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), and to work with the north east prison service to help make a difference for visitors to our local prisons.

A copy of the Nepacs manifesto for families of prisoners is HERE.