Our previous blog reported on some thoughts from the Safe Ground Symposium – Delivering Desistance? highlighting a theme that emerged from speeches and debates that occurred throughout the day, namely: the Public Perception of Prisoners. Read about this, and listen to Shadd Maruna’s keynote speech here.
Another prominent topic of discussion was the importance of the family as part of the desistance process. Diane Curry OBE, CEO of POPS (Partners of Prisoners Families) and a member of our panel, iterated the need for a supporter network around the prisoner. This was echoed in Professor Shadd Maruna’s speech, which posited that a feeling of responsibility and an increasing concern for others is key to desistance whilst serving the sentence, and upon release.
Diane Curry stressed that the families of prisoners needs are of equal importance and require just as much support. This is because they themselves go under a process of change while their loved one is in prison. However, there is a dearth of measures in place that support that change. Seeing the family as part of the solution, not part of the problem is essential. It is often the case that a family is not kept informed with news of their relative. Diane suggested the need to evaluate where families fit, and where a community fits, in the road to re-integration. Families are a vital part of desistance.
Michael, our Fathers Inside graduate and panel member, provided a personal example. Explaining that his mother had to concede a loss, he said: “My eldest brother had to step in and take the role of my dad. My dad distanced himself. My youngest brother
didn’t want to talk to me. I grew my own son into a life of crime. Now he’s confused as to why I’m giving him different advice. Prison changes family relationships all the time, and if they don’t have that support then they have to find a way. The roles for brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, continues to change in the environment we are in now”.
So how do we at Safe Ground fit into this? Scott Whitnall, a Family Man graduate and speaker at the event, touched on the subject when he spoke about Family Man and its impact. We support prisoners like Scott to enhance or develop relationship skills that empower a change in attitude towards family responsibilities. Family Man requires a supporter, who is usually a family member, to be part of the participant’s action plan and decision making, in a controlled environment. Hear Scott talk about his experiences in the clip below and see pictures of the day here.
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Scott Whitnall, Safe Ground Graduate speaking about Family Man, House of Lords 19.03.12