Invisible Walls Wales
From a blog by Lemos&Crane
Lemos&Crane recently reported on the results of the Invisible Walls Wales initiative which focuses on supporting prisoners in maintaining strong bonds with their families, particularly their children and partners. As well as the obvious emotional benefits, family connections while in prison and on release appear to be one of the best positive indicators of successful rehabilitation and a permanent move away from crime.
Invisible Walls Wales is based in HMP Parc near Bridgend in South Wales and was initially funded by the Big Lottery and is a partnership between G4S, Barnardo's Cymru, Bridgend Social Services and Gwalia Housing. The pilot project worked with 349 participants from 83 families. Such were the results, it has now been mainstreamed and continues as part of the HMP Parc's programme.
Invisible Walls Wales has three objectives:
Increase quality of life and community inclusion for whole families
Reduce the likelihood of offender participants returning to crime and punishment
Through working with children, impact positively on issues relating to the risk of intergenerational offending
Invisible Walls Wales adopts a 'whole family' approach, providing support to offenders, partners and children for to 12 months pre-release and six months post-release via three integrated 'hubs' of activity (prison, transitional and community).
Invisible Walls Wales was evaluated by researchers at the University of South Wales. What were the main findings?
Participants received a much enhanced quality and greater frequency of family contact during the prison sentence than prisoners not participating in the project.
Participants were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences both in prison and after release. The vast majority reported that contact with the project had been positive and productive, with particular value attached to the emotional support.
One of the key successes of the project was the engagement of schools, which led to direct links between the project and individual teachers of child participants, successful parent/teacher school showcase events held in the prison, and the development of a new formal partnership with many schools.
The impact upon prisoners was substantial; Substantial reductions in the numbers misusing substances. Improvements in accommodation and employment status. Significant positive change in parenting scores. Improvements in children’s emotional wellbeing, attention levels, behaviour and peer relationships in the home. Significant positive change in measures of prisoners’ attitudes to crime.
Significant positive change in scores representing the child’s wellbeing in the school environment along with significant positive change in children’s school attendance rates.
A fall in the number of children needing support from Social Services.
"Invisible Walls Wales has been an exceptionally successful project, which has had a significant positive impact on the lives of the prisoners and families who participated and has the potential to have a major effect nationally (and even internationally) on thinking, policy and practice in regard to the children and families of prisoners." Researchers at the University of South Wales
Elements of Invisible Walls Wales have been adopted in several prisons in the UK and elsewhere and the findings are also beginning to have an influence on prisons policy at UK government level.
Once you register on the Lemos&Crane site, you can read the evaluation here. Invisible Walls Wales also features in Life Beyond Crime: What do those at risk of offending, prisoners and ex-offenders need to learn? published by Lemos&Crane.
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