15th May 2004
The maximum-security prison of HMP Maghaberry in Northern Ireland has introduced a new aspect into their Child-Centered Visits. In keeping with the regular three-hour visits (mother, father, children), special child-centered visits with imprisoned fathers and their children take place during lunch hour once a month; during the lunch period, mothers/partners go to the healthcare center for coffee and informal discussion on issues concerning their loved ones’ situation. Since early May, however, the family members/partners of detainees serving life sentences are now being given the opportunity to visit the inmate’s cell. The family members are taken on a walking tour of the prison, including the workshop areas. Experience has revealed that visualizing the prisoner’s cell and certain aspects of prison life can bring feelings of relief, particularly for family members visiting for the first time. Meanwhile, lunchtime visits for detainee fathers and children encourage and foster communication, non-verbal contact (“tumble on the floor”) and bonding. They are staffed by prison officers and the Ulster Quakers Society Staff, volunteers trained in child care. Of the 668 inmates at Maghaberry, approximately 450 are parents.
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