Improving prisoners’ family ties

Families are important to anyone – but for prisoners, family ties can make all the difference to rehabilitation. Prisoners who are visited by a relative are 39% less likely to re-offend within a year of release than those who receive no visits. Good relationships between prisoners and their families can also help by boosting employment prospects, improving children’s well-being, and reducing homelessness.

There are many charities working with prisoners and their families to build and maintain these relationships. They provide visitor centres, run activities to bring families together, train prison staff, and even help prisoners record bedtime stories for their children. But measuring the difference these activities make is difficult – the outcomes are largely intangible and the criminal justice system complex.

To try to tackle some of these problems, NPC used a shared measurement approach, working with experts in the field and six charities to understand how different activities can improve family relationships, and how this can be measured. This report recommends how government, funders and charities can strengthen measurement in the sector and help to improve family relationships.

The visitor experience and family relationships questionnaires developed as part of this project have helped to start establishing a framework for more standardised measurement in the sector. However, both tools are at an early stage in their development, and need to be developed and refined in light of the pilot, and tested at a greater scale in more diverse settings, before being made available more widely.

  • Read Inside and out, NPC’s original report from 2005, and Breaking the cycle, an update on this research from 2009, for more on the issues facing prisoners and ex-offenders.
  • Read Trial and error, NPC’s report into young offenders.