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Background and Theory

It is estimated that around 160,000 children have a parent in prison each year. They are a vulnerable group at risk of poor outcomes, three times more likely to have mental health problems or to engage in antisocial behaviour than their peers. Nearly two thirds of boys who have a parent in prison will go on to commit some kind of crime themselves.

Offenders' families are amongst the most socially excluded groups in society. Some are assumed to be 'guilty by association' and many suffer stress-related conditions - almost three quarters of partners and mothers in one survey attributed their health problems directly to the imprisonment of a family member. Almost 60% of families in another survey stated imprisonment of a family member had left them 'less well off'.

(Reducing re-offending: supporting families, creating better futures - Ministry of Justice)

Working with prisoners' families is a complex area, yet sometimes the best way to tackle complex matters is in simple ways.

This Toolkit utilises some basic theoretical approaches including:

  • The 'cycle of change' (Procheska, DiClimente and Norcross, commonly used in addiction services) as a model for understanding change generally.
    Bereavement/loss is also a major factor, although in this case the person has not died and in fact will often seek the family home after the custodial sentence. We aim to encourage a safe return if appropriate, to reduce re-offending.

  • A reflective practitioner approach, as our work needs to be thoughtful, responsive, active and dynamic.

  • John's model of reflective practice, which┬áis included as an aid to learning for the benefit of the client, peers and the service.

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