26th July 2013

In October 2011 the Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service was published with some 40 recommendations aimed at refreshing, modernising and ensuring the service was fit for purpose into the 21st century. An update regarding this from Eurochips’ member NIACRO

The Review recommended “an early retirement scheme which allows a significant number of staff to leave and new staff to be recruited, alongside a training and development programme, externally delivered, for those who remain or join”. As part of this process the Prison Service embarked on a staff recruitment campaign to bring in new thinking and new ways of working into the service.

The Prison Service invited NIACRO’s Family Links Service, which supports families with a loved one in prison, in collaboration with a number of other NGOs (Barnardo’s, the Quaker Service and Prison Fellowship NI) to develop and deliver “Think Family”, a training programme for new Prison Custody Officer recruits.

“Think Family” aims to raise awareness of the importance of prisoners maintaining family contact during their incarceration as this can contribute to more successful resettlement and rehabilitation on release.

The programme also aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of parental imprisonment on children, in terms of their mental health, education and risk of offending.

Over 100 new recruits have undergone training so far and the programme has received very positive feedback. It is hoped that “Think Family” will be offered to night custody officers and new Family Officers in the Prison Service and we have also had enquiries from the Northern Ireland Court Service.

NIACRO had, for a number of years, unsuccessfully lobbied for an input into prison officer training in Northern Ireland; we are therefore delighted that we now have the opportunity to do so. We are also delighted that the Prison Service recognises, as stated in the Review, that “Families and communities can and should play a key role” in the rehabilitation of offenders.

We look forward to continuing to share our experience and expertise on working with families and children of prisoners with the Prison Service and others.

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Author: rmchristen