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A guide to supporting family members

These seven stages of a family's journey through the criminal justice system are matched to 'The Cycle of Change'.

To notes on each key stage of the process and the potential impact on the partner, child and family, choose a heading below.

The order may change if a person is remanded and the process may literally take years.

Stage 1 - Arrest

Here the family need is to negotiate what is the truth; information is exchanged which has not been known before.

The child may be kept in the dark at this stage or traumatised by the event of the arrest if it took place at home.

State of change: Pre-contemplation

Help the family agree how to manage the information; for the adults many questions are raised. Avoid concrete outcomes or promises as this can be a time of shock, denial and fear.

The child may not be aware that the parent has been arrested, the extended family may not also be aware.

If the person is being held in custody the child will be having to deal with trauma and loss. Similar responses to a 'sudden death' may be observed.

Stop; ask who was present at the arrest? Are they showing signs of shock?

Stop; consider any new risks to the family from their neighbours and local community.

Look how the children are responding to the arrest?

Look for someone who can act as an 'appropriate adult' if the person being interviewed is a child or vulnerable adult.

Look; make sure if the person is bailed that they know when and where to go back and answer bail. This will be on the charge sheet given to the accused.

Look to see if any schools or other professionals working with the family can be notified.

Listen to identify who knows about the arrest, has anyone vital been missed out?

Listen to hear if there is a solicitor with the person.

Arrest - Stage 1 - Intervention - Empathy and Affirmation
The concept of time and process conflict here. The offender may feel things are happening quickly, it is all coming to an end or deny all knowledge because he/she is very scared, putting on a hard front, 'brave face' or dramatising the events to make the reality appear less shocking.

The child or young person may not be aware of the arrest so for them life can be exactly the same. Many families will keep this information from younger children and at times from young people. However children will almost certainly be aware of increased tension in the house. There is an increased risk to the child as their coping mechanisms are pushed to the limit. This is a time to listen to the child in order to gauge what they understand. This is not a time to make promises or 'investigate' what has happened. If the child/young person is valued, they will tell you as much as they are comfortable with sharing. It is helpful at this stage to describe the process rather than outcomes. So explain what the Police have done and what being arrested means; for example, 'He has been taken to a Police station to answer questions there.'

Be aware there will be many pressures on the family, and information coming from them may well be changing and inaccurate. This can be due to fear, shame, not knowing themselves or lying, so do not give the impression of being on one person’s side or the other. LISTEN to the child. Difficult questions can be reflected back, such as 'What do you say, or think is happening?'

Remember the next stages can be very traumatic and the child needs to know that the adults around them can cope, and that they are loved and valued. Your aim is to build and strengthen the relationship.

Affirm the child, by listening and paying attention.
Respond to specific concerns.
Respect the confidentiality of the family.
Evaluate the impact of what you have heard and what action to take.
Safeguard the child - are there increased risks?
Team work. Who is, or needs to be, around the child to offer support?

The partner may disengage or tell you everything that they are feeling. Once again it is good to informally assess what support systems the person has and how they may use this support during this time and avoid making promises or concrete statements as the situation can change dramatically. It is common for them to express shame and a fear of rejection, though few of these fears may be realised. Keep the partner focused on their achievements. Remember, time for the partner appears to stand still, as shock is often a dominant factor. The person may speak in great detail about the arrest or not be able to talk about it at all.

The offender may play down the events or emotionally collapse as their worst fears are exposed. The person may also totally deny the charges as a way of coping with the situation. Time for the offender may well appear to speed up.

The family now appear to operate in three different time zones, normal for the child, slow, stop for the partner, fast for the offender. They will be able to process their emotions if communication is good. The child may be demanding as they are unaware of the situation, or picking up the fear in the family. The partner can be asking lots of questions or trying to work out how they will cope. The offender may close down or increase risk-taking behaviour as time is running out.

Remember to offer stability, which is an immensely valuable contribution, or if the person is being held in custody the child will be having to deal with trauma and loss.

Stage 2 - Charge

The details of the crime are identified, the truth is partially exposed. The potential impact is spelt out.

Understanding may be hampered by technical jargon.

Stage of change: Pre-contemplation

Interventions - Help the family to think through how they will respond to the impact of the partner entering custody. What resources do they have? Who can support them?

They may not want it now but you are helping them to be aware. You can re-visit support options later.

This is a time to listen to the children and hear what they understand and how they are processing the information. Observe any shock/trauma indicators.

Stop; ask who was present at the arrest? Are they showing signs of shock?

Stop; consider any new risks to the family from their neighbours and local community.

Look how the children are responding to the arrest?

Look for someone who can act as an 'appropriate adult' if the person being interviewed is a child or vulnerable adult.

Look; make sure if the person is bailed that they know when and where to go back and answer bail. This will be on the charge sheet given to the accused.

Look to see if any schools or other professionals working with the family can be notified.

Listen to identify who knows about the arrest, has anyone vital been missed out?

Listen to hear if there is a solicitor with the person.

Charge - Stage 2 - Intervention - Active listening & building self-esteem
The child or young person may not be aware of the charge, but acting as a 'sponge' for the tension in the family. If the child is aware, it is a time to affirm them and help them to recognise the internal resources available to them. You can draw attention to how the child has coped with difficult times in the past, if appropriate, and help identify who they can talk to about feelings. If the child is not aware, be careful not to breach trust or collude. The family may have their own 'systems' to handle such events, for example, they may have decided not to tell the child the truth. As a worker your role is not to breach this agreement unless there are obvious risk factors which need to be addressed in accordance with normal professional practice.

This is a time to help the child develop good self-esteem as the situation around them may be increasingly difficult, as the reality of what is ahead becomes real to the adults. The child or young person may go to court with the accused. What does the child understand about court?

Consider if it is appropriate for the worker to be present when the partner talks to the child about the court case to help clarify or help the communication. Activities which assist with emotional vocabulary will be valuable. This is often a time when families become silent/close down. The child may be asking awkward questions, so the worker may be better to focus on working with the partner to assist them to answer these questions in an age-appropriate manner.

Confirm the arrangements and information the child needs to know.
Help the family/child with clear practical arrangements.
Assess how the family system is coping and planning for the future, whatever the outcome. 
Research the correct date, times and telephone numbers, and know what the family is expecting.
Guilt. The child may express their own feelings of guilt (which are unfounded) or they may be angry at the offender's guilt. 
Esteem. The self-esteem of the child is a crucial protective factor; so offer any activities that will help the child recognise they are not alone.

This can be a highly stressful time for the partner as they are totally out of control. The opinions of many people are offered such as friends, neighbours, lawyers etc. Some of these may be perfectly valid and relevant, others less helpful. The offender's friends may also offer suggestions of how the case will go on the day. This may cause confusion and fear. The child may attend but have no concept of the venue or significance of the place being visited.

Childcare may be an option, practical support for example, how to get to the court, what is going to happen afterwards is important. Who to update/inform and what? How will things change in the person is remanded in custody?

The offender may emotionally close down if expecting a custodial sentence, especially if they have been in prison before. This means very limited acknowledgment of the situation or recognition of the emotions they, or others, are feeling. This can come from a strategy to cope with the fear, 'Expect the worst and anything else is a bonus'. They may also feel very vulnerable and be desperate for help, asking any professional to write letters to the judge on their behalf. Be clear about your role and boundaries, support as appropriate and within your capacity/role.

The family may be polarised to one of two extremes and demonstrate a totally together 'Us against the world' attitude or be fractured and divided as each person copes in their own way. In this situation each person blames the other or outside agencies. The offender reverts to defensive or aggressive approaches to deal with his/her fear. The reality of the future is often unclear and promises/threats can be frequent. In order to remain together (if this is desired) each person may need individual support to look at their specific needs.

Stage 3 - Court

Court is a place of powerlessness for the family. There may be conflicting information from friends and legal representation. Families can normally sit in the public gallery.

State of change:

Interventions - Provide information before court to prepare for all outcomes

It is quite possible that the child has no idea what is happening. The child is very vulnerable around this stage as tension can be very high, so the child may be at higher risk or receive unusual amounts of attention because the parent knows/believes they will be going to prison.

Stop; check the family know where the court is and how to get there

Stop; think if the family need to prepare a brief statement to read if the press ask questions

Look, for any childcare needs, a family may be in Court for most of the day.

Look to try and prepare the family about the court, who sits where etc. Also that there is a public gallery and the victims family may be present.

Look for how much knowledge the family has about the case, e.g. how long is it expected to last?

Listen and think of ways a custodial sentence may affect the family income.

Listen, and ask if the family are aware that the press may be at court.

Listen to the family and see if they know how to find out where the person will be sent to custody. Court Services can usually help.

At this stage the outcome is in the hands of the magistrates or jury.

Promote practical planning, for example how will the family members get to the court? And home? If custody takes place how will this affect income or benefits? How will they know which prison the partner has gone to? Provide leaflets from HMCS (Her Majesty's Court Service) AJ26 Magistrates Court. The outcome may also be influenced by the offender’s plea of guilty or not guilty.

At this stage the child may 'lose' their parent. This can be a total shock or relief, depending on the level of chaos they have been living in up to this point.

Here choices need to be made about what information to tell the child, before and after going to court. It is helpful to look at any previous times when the child has been separated to see how they have coped in the past. It is important to look for behavioural changes similar to other trauma-related conditions such as withdrawal or spiteful play, attention seeking behaviour, bedwetting, nightmares, temper tantrums or aggressive behaviour as the child seeks to come to terms with what has happened to the parent. This is a key time and it is important to offer support for the first 24 to 48 hours after the court appearance. Establish how the child thinks the relationship may change and what the sentence means. Emphasise the ways that contact can be maintained. This will be via letters, telephone calls and visits. It is good to point out that the parent is safe, but acknowledge the child's fear. Drawing on experiences when the child has had to go somewhere they have not wanted to may help, though it is important to avoid direct comparisons. Ensure the child understands that this is not because 'Daddy was naughty' or 'Didn’t do as he was told'. This can lead to negative associations, such as the child thinking they will go to court or prison for minor 'normal' naughty behaviour.

Prepare the parent for what they are going to say to family members and agree support for when this news is broken. They may or may not support the offender at court. The partner may make major decisions based on shame, anger or guilt, such as splitting up. It is important to consider the cultural implications of having a husband or wife in prison as this may mean rejection by friends and family. This is a time to help facilitate conversations between the parent, child and siblings. This may be in a neutral venue e.g. children’s centre.

If the offender is taken to custody without notice or being able to say goodbye, and especially if it is their first time in prison, the full impact of their actions may now be obvious to them. People will often feel terrified and very emotional for their first few nights. Some may be put on to a self-harm watch, depending on the sentence and response to the conviction. Often from their perspective the are desperate to be assured that nothing will change while they are away. This is of course impossible to promise. They may seek to stay in control even though they are no longer present, using threatening letters or phone calls.

A period of time is required to adjust to the different way of life. Each member of the family may now express the anger they have been holding back. It is important to give permission for the members of the family to get through this shock. The offender may also blame the partner; in some cases the partner may have informed, or "grassed” on the offender. The family may close down and not wish to communicate. If the press were in court this can be a period of intense intrusion at school. The child can be subject to ridicule and bullying.

Here stories may be made up to cover the reality of the truth. 'Dad is working away.' This can be a time to gently challenge whether stories will help in the long term. Children often pick up on unspoken atmospheres or overheard conversations. Any stories which are constructed to cover for the truth may become more and more complicated and impossible to maintain.

Useful documents
Going to court with your child (806KB, PDF)
Hampshire court basic listings (103KB, PDF)
Kinship Care Team information (794KB, PDF)
Telling the children (101KB, PDF)

Stage 4 - Starting the sentence

Stop and ask if the person is on remand. If yes, then visiting can be more frequent, booking still required.

Look to see if a common assessment framework (CAF) has been done or is required.

Look to see if school are aware.

Look to see how the family are telling others.

Listen to what the children have been told about where the person has gone.

As the sentence commences the impact for the whole family becomes more clear. The shock may begin to be more visible and some families will retreat and isolate themselves. This may also depend on the level of 'interest' shown by the other family members and local community or press.

For the child, the responses to having a parent go to prison can be the start of a significant change in behaviour. Some children may start to become aggressive. It can be helpful to identify the positive contributions the person in custody made to the well-being of the child. It may be possible to identify how these can be maintained, either by contact with the offender or by seeking to provide these positives from other social contacts e.g. friends, extended family or after-school clubs.

As the person starts the sentence, the full impact of the situation can begin to sink in for the partner. Routines and responsibilities can appear very daunting. The partner often feels they have to be strong for the children. This is at the very time when they are feeling their weakest. There is a significant risk of high levels of anxiety, or depression during this time. For some families this will be a time of relief as the chaos or control brought to the relationship by the offending behaviour has now stopped. It is a good time to listen to the partner to help identify how they have coped with difficult experiences, perhaps bereavement, in the past.

For the offender this is often also an overwhelming time. During induction the prisoner will be told of support services and opportunities for training, drug and alcohol programmes and any other services which operate in the prison. However, many prisoners do not absorb this information as the shock of being in prison sinks in. During this time, letters may be frequent and very contrite or angry. Promises may be made or requests to appeal against the situation.

A key factor to consider here is if this is the first time the family have experienced these circumstances before. If this is not the first time then the family may have established ways of coping while the person is in custody. For others this can be a time when the changes which have been talked about become real. There can be a serious impact on schooling, stress may increase in the family and be shown by increased arguments or isolation.

It is a good time to check basic functioning of the family; eating, sleeping and getting ready for school in the mornings. Speak to family members individually and consider support for teenagers who may experience significant change of role as the sentence progresses; there may also be relief if the person now in prison has been living a chaotic lifestyle. It is important not to make assumptions. The family will decide whether to tell the truth or not. Support to help think through the implications of telling or not telling the truth can be helpful to the family.

Useful documents:
Splitting up (3135KB)
Feeling bad, feeling sad (610KB)
Going through the gates - a personal account (56KB)
Growing up - talking about difficult matters (206KB)
Sent to prison (807KB)

Stage 5 - First visit

The time around the first visit can be a very difficult time as there are many pressures and expectations. The pressures are both practical and emotional, such as getting the money to visit, travel arrangements, what to say, being unaware of what will actually happen and how the partner will look and feel.

Stage of change: contemplation for the prisoner and active change for the parent.

Interventions - this is a time for very practical support in order to reduce the underlying anxiety. Responding to the potential issues raised above.

This will be a time of high expectation and anticipation. Younger children may expect things to be 'as normal.' Older children and teenagers may disengage or show protest behaviour, as they face the prospect of confronting their parent.

Stop; be aware that making a phone call to arrange a visit takes a long time and can be expensive.

Stop; check that the family have the Visiting Order (VO); only those named on the VO will be allowed to visit.

Stop; the family may have to give their fingerprints at the prison and they may be searched.

Look for the ways the family express emotions about the visit.

Look for signs of tension prior to the visit, children may be disruptive or quiet.

Look for any others who should be notified about the visit, such as school, to avoid an unauthorised absence.

Listen to the expectations and promises that are made around the visit - are they realistic?

Listen to what the family will do after the visit. This can be a very tense time.

First Visit - Stage 5 - Intervention - Negotiation, realistic goal setting, expectation management
This is a time of immense emotional expectation for the child. For some it will be excitement with all the associated behaviour, or fear at seeing the person again since they have been in prison. The child may well expect everything to be the same and have little concept of the time constraints (often only an hour). It is a good idea to chat through with the child what they would like to say and help them to recognise that everyone will have something to say. The hardest part of the visit may well be managing the waiting as the process includes time to wait, to be searched, to go into the visiting area and to wait for the prisoner to come into the room. After the visit the child may be very quiet or angry.

Pressure on the partner is increased at this time, as they have to organise the transport, hold the family together, appear as though they can cope, although perhaps wanting their partner to realise that they can't. They may also wish to look their best, despite the trauma they may actually be experiencing. It is helpful to try and prepare the partner for the practicalities of the visit. Help the person to think through what they want to, need to, and have to say to the prisoner, perhaps by writing a letter before the visit. This letter may never be sent but helps to clarify the priority points to talk about during the time together. If the prisoner has had a drug or alcohol misuse lifestyle they may appear more healthy than normal, as the daily routines of prison life benefit the early stages of recovery. This can be confusing for the visitor.

Perhaps in a strange way the person in prison can anticipate the first visit in a similar way to the child, or with strong feelings of guilt as this is the first time they have been seen in the prison environment. Some people put on a 'brave face', others will talk as if they are a victim, perhaps expressing anger at their treatment and making requests, deals or attempting to bargain in order to feel better about a very bad situation. This is often a time of contemplation. There may be expressions of guilt about the shame they have caused and gratitude at the effort the family have made to come and visit, which may involve a long journey.

Due to the change in routines and roles for each person, time can appear to run at a different pace for each. For example, the offender in prison is adapting or has adapted to a very clear and unchanging routine. Time may appear to move very slowly, their response to their sentence can determine how well they cope. A persistent offender may adapt quickly, however a first time offender may be very distressed/shocked and emotional. The child can be asking what appear to be ridiculous questions as they try to process what has happened. The questions and comments may appear insensitive, but it is important to answer them honestly.

Useful documents:
A guide to MAPPA (408KB)
Assisted visits - application form and guide (2049KB)
My special book - visiting my dad (167KB)
My special book - visiting my mum (167KB)
What can I do if I am being bullied? (336KB)
Assisted prison visits scheme - customer service guide (127KB)
My visit (3764KB)

Stage 6 - Serving the sentence

Help the partner to see what things will, may and won't change. Here the 'mother' becomes the 'father' or visa versa.

State of change: Maintenance

Interventions - Here the person can be very open or resentful towards taking on new roles and responsibilities. The partner may resent the prisoner 'who looks better than they have in years' while 'the partner has to do everything.

During this period the child may appear to have adjusted. However, more severe behaviours may surface, as expressions of the emotions repressed during the more chaotic changes.

Stop; consider with the family how roles/responsibilities have changed.

Stop; look for teenagers in the family who may be taking on parenting roles. Consider risk indicators such as absences from school or substance misuse.

Look for ways that the family are communicating. Does this give a balanced over-optimistic/negative view?

Look to see if the family are still talking or are they isolating?

Listen to each member of the family individually and encourage them to feed back to others if appropriate.

Listen to how relationships or behaviours are changing at school.

Listen to where the children are getting positive affirmation from.

Serving the Sentence - Stage 6 - Intervention - Build on the partner's skills. Remind them of the positive outcome
This is a time to 'anchor' the child depending on their age. Younger children may need help to see what has not changed and value what they have which is constant. Young people may be or feel a 'scapegoat' or shown signs of guilt while taking on the role of the person now in prison. Perhaps workers can help the child to express what they like best about their mum or dad. This can feed into support for the offender to target relevant communication by writing or talking during telephone conversations about the issues the child values. For some children and young people the role change stage is a time when they take the place of the absent parent. Support can be targeted to help reinforce that they are is still a child, not an adult. Promote activities and events with other children of a similar chronological age.

For some children who have taken on guilt for the offence which the adult committed, a referral to specific counselling or support services may be appropriate. Role change in the midst of the changes associated with adolescence may require ongoing specialist support. Again workers need to be aware that difficulties may surface and appear to be unrelated as the initial crisis appears to have passed. If there are a number of children in the same situation you may consider it appropriate to offer an outing or specific time for these children to get together. The use of videos/DVDs from other support agencies such as Action for Prisoners Families may be able to help in setting up groups. Some children have an incredible ability to cope with bad news, very few children cope with the absence of good news.

This can be a time when the partner has to cope and develops new skills. Although the partner may not recognise or value these new skills, it is helpful to assist the person to see that just coping is commendable in the light of the changes they have experienced. Be specific about achievements and set small goals to help the person recognise them. It is common to feel impatient that things are not working out or that they should be coping better than they are. Activities which help the person to build appropriate non-problem based relationships, such as clubs, groups, courses which are not focused on the criminal justice system, drugs, alcohol can be helpful the person to see if they are 'normal'. Be aware that the partner maybe reluctant and feel that they stand out or cannot cope with new experiences. It is important to keep engaged with the person as this can be a time when they reduce contact for positive or negative reasons. The positive being that they are coping and building an independent future. They may have made a decision to end the contact or relationship, or they may be in a routine which means they are able to cope now with changes that had overwhelmed them previously. Alternatively they may be feeling that this is all a waste of time and revert to self defeating thoughts and behaviours, which can sometimes present as the person making negative comments which they appear to have been told by others. If progress is achieved and sustained by the partner he/she may stop seeking support from agencies.

Here the offender will be in a routine and actually has little responsibility. If they are able to maintain the routine of prison rules no additional pressures will come to them from with in the prison system. However, they may well perceive pressure from the partner having to maintain the running of the home. For the continued relationship with the child it is good to identify what the child values about the parent in prison, and support the offender to develop strategies to maintain these specific interactions with the child as far as possible.

At this stage the family may have adapted to ways of coping, communication may be strained, superficial or sporadic. The child or young person may well undergo changes at this time and decide that they do not want to have contact with the offender anymore. This can be very difficult as the partner may be blamed for the child/young person making this decision. A clear risk assessment needs to be undertaken to consider the best approach in communicating such decisions, as there are likely to be risks to all concerned when the person is released from custody. Relevant and appropriate agencies need to be updated in regards to any threats of harm or intimidation coming from the offender towards family members and/or themselves.

If the partner or offender reach the decision that the relationship is over, support will need to be given to the child in regards to the adjustment, similar to the support offered to children whose parents are undergoing divorce.

Useful documents:
Being a parent of someone in prison (65KB)
My dad is in prison and I need to talk (92KB)
One minute he hugs me, the next... (400KB)
Prison visits (49KB)
Prisoners and housing (47KB)
Separation (881KB)
Supporting a bereaved child (1465KB)
Supporting young people with a prisoner in the family (92KB)

Stage 7 - Release

This is a time for both massive expectation and fear.

Clear communication is essential as many promises are made by people and to people in prison; clarify practical arrangements.

Mitigate against the risk of 'gate fever' - where the prisoner engages in risk-taking behaviour because 'they deserve it' or 'they have been banged up'.

State of change: Relapse/maintenance

Interventions - All the emotions which are closed down in order to cope with the isolation of prison may now be released. Support the partner to identify how the person will cope with being released. Support the partner to identify how the person will cope with being released. Identify specific risks and triggers. Be aware new disclosure of need may appear at this stage. Many people underestimate the impact of getting out of prison. It can be helpful to underline how the family coped with stages 1-3 and build on these tools to prepare for the return. If there are risk factors to the return, the person may now be open to support as a way to increase the safety of the family.

Preparation is key to understanding if the child is excited or fearful of the parent being released. The child may not communicate this to the people most involved i.e. the parent or partner. Disclosure may be to a sibling or third party.

Stop; do the family expect the prisoner to just slot back into family life?

Stop; consider how parental roles may change on such areas as discipline

Stop; consider how the physical relationship may change upon release

Look for ways to support and highlight the new skills learnt by the family.

for the changes the prisoner will find he he is not expecting.

Look for stress points for the family, e.g. the prisoner may not feel comfortable closing doors, holding keys, with fast traffic or crowds. Sleeping is often problematic upon release.

Listen; how do the children talk about the release, can they express fears?

Listen to see if additional support is required; is a CAF appropriate?

Listen; check the family know of any reporting requirements, such as probation or home detention curfew, or tag conditions.

Release - Stage 7 - Intervention - Identify specific areas of safety resources available to increase safety
Consider arranging a time/way for the child to express how they feel about the person returning home. It is important to have no preconceived ideas as the child may be feeling excited or fearful, based on the history of the family.

Help the child to express how they have coped and affirm inner resources such as humour, honesty, ability to express themselves verbally or artistically. Build on concrete examples of success. 

Support the child to identify what changes have taken place, such as 'I have had two birthdays since he went away' or 'I have a girlfriend now'. Encourage the child to see that it will take time to learn how/if parents have changed. It is important to help the child accept that parents need time to see how things have changed as well. At release seek to support the child to talk to trusted adults about how things have changed, as there can be so much anticipation and excitement associated with release. A child can feel guilty for saying 'It is not as I thought it would be.'

The partner may have made considerable adjustments while the person was in custody. It may be helpful for the partner to consider how the routines have changed and what the impact of those changes may be on the running of the home when the partner returns. This may be how the bills are paid, how debts are being dealt with, or routines for the child such as getting up, bedtimes, mealtimes and changes in friendships. It may be helpful if you have a good knowledge of the family to draw up a list of 'how the house works' and consider changes. This may also involve other family members and can form the basis of a more objective scale to measure achievements by the family. It would be best for the family to keep this list and consider the impact of any changes together privately. Scaling questions may be helpful to help set achievable targets. For example 'How hopeful are you on a scale of 1-10 that things will be ok?' Answer '2'. Question 'what would make it a 3?' identify goal.

While in custody the offender can be offered various courses and levels of intervention and support, such as parenting, drugs rehab. They are potentially vulnerable to promises of support upon release which may not transpire; a key area is housing. If the person in custody is not returning home or to a safe environment there can be a very high risk of re-offending. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) offers support for the prisoner while in prison and through probation on release. Normally, unless the person is serving less than twelve months, NOMS will address areas under what is known as the 'Seven Pathways'. These are as follows:

1) Accommodation
2) Education, training and employment.
3) Health.
4) Drugs and Alcohol
5) Finance, benefit and debt
6) Children and Families
7) Attitudes, thinking and behaviour.

Risks are around the first twenty four hours of release as the person may visit local pubs to celebrate. If possible have someone meet the person at the prison gate. You may then plan to give the partner some time alone with the person just who has just been released. It is essential that the person keeps any required appointments at probation or drug services on the day of release. An individual approach is best as people deal with freedom in different ways. The pace of life, traffic can be a shock.

In the cycle of change context the offender and partner may be in different places. Both can desire to build on skills learnt but lack the capacity to achieve. 

Is it good to ask 'What space and time is made for the adults to talk, perhaps without the children?'

Consider the practical, financial arrangements. When a person is free they often have three reactions to speaking about their prison experience; to over dramatise, minimise or refuse to acknowledge it. A person may also find it difficult to adjust to life outside. This can be shown by behaviours such as: sitting on a bed and looking out of the door (this replicates how many hours may have been spent in a cell), or reluctance to close a door themselves. The lack of routine may cause stress in the family. There will need to be a time to re-negotiate roles and responsibilities. The partner may revert to fulfilling the role prior to the sentence. The person released my find difficulty fitting in as their identity may appear to have changed. The person is now described as an ex-offender.

There is an impact on getting house insurance, jobs and disclosing the nature of the conviction. NACRO can offer advice on how to handle application forms. It can also be helpful to consider how to address the following areas in order to get through the some of the obstacles.

- How the person and family will talk about the time in prison to children, friends and family.

Application forms - Get advice on how and what to disclose on paper, work and application forms.

Public – A short statement that can be used by the family to explain the situation which does not go into emotional language.

The purpose of this MAP acronym is to help the person to speak about their experience in an appropriate way in each context. This can help with keeping to an accurate and true account which does not elaborate on the truth or expose confidentiality.

Useful documents:
Bank accounts advice (335KB)
Early release from prison (49KB)
Finances when you leave prison (37KB)
Finding a job when you leave prison (81KB)
Hampshire Probation contact list (33KB)
Release (893KB)
Where probation fits in (110KB)

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Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this directory, we do not accept any responsibility or liability for any errors that have occurred. It is recommended that you always check with providers that their service or organisation meets your requirements. We offer an impartial service and we cannot recommend or endorse any providers listed.

Further information