Social policy think tank applauds rehabilitation initiative at national award ceremony

  • 22nd Mar 2017 14:14
A 'radical and innovative' initiative to heal broken bonds between prisoners and their families at HMP Parc was recognised with an award from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) at their national award ceremony in London. 
Parc Prison Mural

Invisible Walls Wales, at G4S-managed HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales, aims to prevent intergenerational offending, reduce re-offending, and encourage community inclusion at the prison. It helps prisoners to strengthen their relationships with their families during their time in custody and upon their release.

Its success and influence won plaudits including HRH Princess Anne, the Justice Secretary Liz Truss, Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah, and the Welsh Government. The scheme has gained praise internationally as well, with Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the President of Malta visiting the programme in March last year.

Invisible Walls Wales was founded in 2012 by Corin Morgan-Armstrong, Head of Family Division at HMP Parc, who recognised the potential for an organisation that could successfully bridge the usual divide between private, public and not for profit sectors to bring together fathers with their families.

Early evidence of Invisible Walls Wales’s work shows the prisons on the programme are re-offending at a significantly lower rate than the national average. There has also been a reduction in substance misuse by the time they leave and an increase in school attendance by children of prisoners.

Head of family interventions at HMP and YOI Parc, Corin Morgan-Armstrong, said: 

"This award is testament to the hard work of the Parc team and the many agencies we work with from inside and outside the prison community to help the lives of prisoners and their families.  

"Our initiative aims to show prisoners the damage their offending causes their families and at the same time allow their families to see through the prison walls and see the positive steps their father, son or brother is taking on the inside.  However broken a family may look, our joint working with social services, probation, local charities and children's schools wraps around the family to heal the broken bonds and try to prevent the men returning to a life of offending and stop their children following down the same road.  

"The project is being evaluated by academics and our own tracking suggests that re-offending rates among high-risk families have decreased significantly and we have met every target we were set by the BIG Lottery.  Family intervention programmes are not currently the norm and today's recognition is an important step in helping us to encourage other prisons, both in the UK and around the world, to take a look again at how prisoners' families can play a pivotal role in rehabilitation and reform."

Andy Cook, Chief Executive of Centre for Social Justice, commented:

“Invisible Walls Wales has identified the major reason why prisoners stop reoffending; family ties provide the critical incentive to offenders to turn their lives around.

“Invisible Walls Wales has demonstrated it saves money in the long term by cutting reoffending and improving the performance of prisoners’ children at school. We hope the profile of the CSJ awards help Invisible Walls Wales to continue their essential work.”

John* is a beneficiary of Invisible Walls Wales’s work. He had been a Class A drug user since his teens and had spent 11 of the past 20 years in prison. He had missed much of his eldest daughter’s life, had a fractured relationship with her and risked doing the same to his youngest son.

Invisible Walls assisted him in tackling his entrenched substance misuse, obtaining accommodation and achieving a number of qualifications and eventually employment.

Key to his ongoing abstinence from drugs was the opportunity to prove his motivation to rebuild relationships with his children and family.

His daughter Michelle* commented: “It was like a new beginning for me and my dad. The way our relationship grew was amazing.”

Michelle has had the opportunity to gain valuable experience as a volunteer with Women’s Aid and Parc Supporting Families. She is making good progress in pursuing her goal of a career supporting the children and families of prisoners. 

Founded in 2004 by the Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP, the CSJ seeks effective solutions to the poverty that blights parts of Britain. Presented by former Sunday Times and Daily Mail journalist Isabel Oakeshott, the annual awards ceremony was held at Central Hall Westminster.

The CSJ Awards celebrate and reward the work of organisations who are not only helping people to turn their lives around but who are also implementing innovative ways to address and prevent the root causes of poverty.

* Not their real names

You can find out more about the IWW approach via our website.

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