February Edition: Women in the criminal justice system
Welcome to the February edition of our e-Newsletter! With Mother's Day just around the corner, this month we will focus on women and Mothers in the criminal justice system.
Ever wondered what it’s like working in the criminal justice system? Every month we will be speaking to a different member of the Pact team. This month meet Priscilla, a Family Engagement Worker at Brixton Prison, and read what she has to say as a woman working in the criminal justice system.
“There’s no such thing as a typical day for me here at Brixton, literally anything can happen! After I’ve checked my emails I then head out onto the wings to catch up with the men I’m working with and provide them with updates on their cases, or just to check in and see how they’re doing.
For those men who have good relationships with family on the outside we do all we can to maintain and build on those relationships. That might involve taking part in our 'Family Literacy in Prisons' and parenting programmes we run at the prison, or recording a Storybook Dads CD, where the men can make a CD of themselves reading a story which is sent out to their child. We also come across a lot of men who have lost contact with family members, for a variety of reasons. In these cases we would discuss what factors have led to the family breakdown and whether it is the best interests of those involved for contact to be re-established. This often involves liaison with other agencies, such as social services and probation. We get most of our referrals from attending a weekly induction of prisoners new to Brixton where we introduce the services we offer, but we also get referrals from other agencies working within the prison, prison officers and from the Pact national helpline.
For me, Family Engagement Work is so important because we are providing support not just to the prisoners we work with, but to their children and families in the community. What makes us unique is that we don’t just offer practical support, we also offer emotional support, taking the time to talk to the prisoners and their families during what is often an incredibly difficult time”.
Last summer, Katie was sentenced to 3 years in prison, leaving her 10 year old son Nathan to live with her Mother, Sandra. In the first week of her sentence Katie really struggled being apart from her son and in the months that followed she became increasingly distressed when Sandra stopped bringing Nathan to visit her.
Katie was desperate to make contact with Sandra and in October she approached the Pact Family Engagement Worker to ask for help.
The Family Engagement Worker listened to Katie’s story and tried to call Sandra. Eventually, after several attempts, Sandra called the Family Engagement Worker back and explained how upset she was with her daughter and that she didn’t want to see her or to bring Nathan to visit her.
After hearing this news Katie became even more depressed but the Family Engagement Worker continued to talk to her and support her. The Worker also maintained contact with Sandra, who eventually agreed to a direct phone call with her daughter. The conversation went really well and Katie was able to show her mum how determined she was to continue to be a good parent to her son and to maintain a positive relationship with him until she could return home.
With the continued support and commitment of the Family Engagement Worker, Sandra has arranged to bring Nathan in for a visit later this month and the relationship between her and her daughter is on the mend.
Thank you to the various Catholic Parishes, staff and students at St Mary’s University and the Hillsong Church in London who helped to launch our Angel Tree Campaign, ensuring that children with a parent in prison received a Christmas present from them. To find out more about it please contact our Parish and Supporter Relations Manager by clicking here.