Farmer review: supporting men in prison to engage with their families

By staff writers
August 11, 2017

In September 2016 Lord Farmer, in partnership with the charity Clinks, which represents and campaigns for the voluntary sector working with offenders, was commissioned by the government to investigate how connecting prisoners with their families can improve offender wellbeing, assist in keeping the public safe and reduce reoffending. The report was published yesterday (10 August 2017).

The review was carried out by visiting prisons, meeting with men and their families and by issuing a public call for evidence from people and organisations interested in this issue through National Prison Radio and other outlets. It also brought together experts from the prison service, probation service and voluntary sector organisations for a series of roundtable discussions with members of the task group assisting Lord Farmer. The task group is made up of people with lived experience, voluntary sector organisations supporting men in prison and their families, representatives of prison and probation services and Clinks. Anne Fox, Chief Executive Officer of Clinks, is the deputy chair.

Although the review focused mainly on outcomes for the majority male prison population, it also used learning from what works well for women in prison and their families.

Lord Farmer was also asked to review what works to help those men who do not have any family connections, such as those whom were previously in the care system, or have lost contact with family because of going to prison or due to the nature of their offences. 

This review considered evidence of what works well:

  • inside the prison
  • where families and prisoners interact.

and reported to the Ministry of Justice in January 2017.

The review's call for evidence received over 1,000 submissions from men in prison, family members of men in prison, voluntary organisations, academics and members of staff in the statutory sector. These informed the final report.

The task group's members are:

  • Andy Keen-Downs, Chief Executive, Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact)
  • Anne Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Clinks
  • Corin Morgan-Armstrong, Head of Family Interventions - Custody & Community, HMP Parc
  • Craig Georgiou/Ronald Withers, Prison Service Manager, Ministry of Justice
  • Diane Curry, Chief Executive, Partners of Prisoners (POPS)
  • Garry Henry, Engagement Team Leader and Regional Manager, User Voice
  • Ilid Davies, Head of Public Protection (London), National Probation Service

Clinks CEO and Deputy Chair of the Farmer Review, Anne Fox said: "The Farmer Review listened to over 1,000 men in prison and their families, voluntary organisations across the UK, prison staff and academics.

"The review concludes that quality family services will help people turn away from crime and it will support families to cope. Voluntary organisations have pioneered best practice for decades and now is the time to spread it far and wide."

Lord Farmer said:"My report is not sentimental about prisoners’ families, as if they can, simply by their presence, alchemise a disposition to commit crime into one that is law abiding.

"However, I do want to hammer home a very simple principle of reform that needs to be a golden thread running through the prison system and the agencies that surround it. That principle is that relationships are fundamentally important if people are to change."

Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said: "This in-depth report rightly recognises the vital importance of family ties to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people in prison and reducing their risk of reoffending on release. Lord Farmer has produced concise recommendations to put families at the heart of safe and constructive prison regimes. Particularly welcome is the proposal that each prison should have a clear, auditable and responsive 'gateway' communication system for families and significant others, so that concerns family members or others may have about the physical or mental health of a loved one in prison can be properly recorded and action taken. We hope this and the other sensible recommendations put forward in the report will be adopted and put swiftly into practice."

* Read Lord Farmer's review here

* Clinks http://www.clinks.org/

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