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A Father's Story

For many fathers in prison, being a parent is the only part of their identity that they view positively, and this responsibility can be the one thing that gives them the hope and determination to stay on the right path. Read here how Michael seized the opportunity to become a positive role model to his daughter, and to other fathers in prison, whilst serving his sentence. 

Michael had spent most of his adult life in and out of prison. He had first ended up in the criminal justice system when he was a teenager, and with no family to turn to for support and stability, he had never managed to turn his life around. When Michael was sent back to prison a year ago his life had changed – during his time outside he had become a father and now had a baby daughter. With a two year sentence ahead of him and facing the prospect of missing out on key moments of his child’s life, he was determined that he would not lose his relationship with his daughter and that this would be the last time he went to prison.

During Michael’s first week he met with Janet, a Pact Family Engagement Worker in the prison. He talked to her about how he could keep in touch with his daughter and continue to build a positive relationship with her.

Janet signed Michael up for Pact’s Time to Connect parenting course, which teaches parents about the role of play in their child’s early development and enables them to bond in an interactive, extended child-centred visit. Michael enjoyed the course so much, and the opportunity it gave him to spend quality time with his daughter, that since then he has attended all of Pact’s parenting and relationship courses.

Today, Michael is a member of the Dad’s Council and is supporting other prisoners to access Pact’s parenting and relationship courses. He works alongside Janet, co-delivering sessions including the Father and Baby Group and the Family Literacy in Prisons course. His relationship with his daughter has gone from strength to strength and has given him the hope and the determination he needed to stay on the right path. Michael looks forward to continuing to be a positive role model and a father when he is released.

Michael told us, "You can achieve anything in life if you put your mind to it, if you've got strong will power you can do anything really. I want to better myself, I don't want to be coming back in here wasting my life, missing out on my daughter. She's only going to get bigger and bigger, and I need to be there to educate her and show her right from wrong." 

June Edition: Fathers Behind Bars

Welcome to the June edition of our e-Newsletter! With Father's Day just around the corner, this month we will focus on fathers in the criminal justice system.

Meet a Pact volunteer
Last week was National Volunteers' Week, an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. We rely on the support of our dedicated volunteers in order to provide the support that prisoners and their families need. This week, meet Rachel, one of our volunteers who works in HMP Cardiff. 
"I have been volunteering for Pact at HMP Cardiff for nearly two years and during this time I have had the opportunity to work with many prisoners and their children. I regularly help out at Pact’s Baby Group and it is lovely to see how the relationship between father and baby develops. It’s fantastic to see the dads witnessing key moments in their child’s early development; seeing them learn to crawl and even take their first wobbly steps.

I have also volunteered at Pact-run Family Days which, like Baby Group, provide a far more relaxed, informal setting for the families than normal visits. I help out with the various activities that are provided for the families including face painting, drawing pictures and making cards, and fathers get to take their child’s creations back with them to their cells.

I’ve also had the opportunity to co-facilitate one of Pact’s parenting courses. It was great to see the impact that the course has, and it was especially encouraging to hear from one of the fathers that we would never see him back inside once he was out as he did not want to be away from his children ever again.

Recently, I have been shadowing on the wings and meeting with prisoners who have requested a meeting with a Pact worker. Some of these meetings have been about informing them of family days, parenting and relationship courses and putting them forward for these. Other meetings have been about exploring different ways that they can keep in contact with their children where the relationship has broken down with the child/children’s mother.

During my time volunteering for Pact, what has really struck me is how many fathers there are in prison who are desperate to be in contact with their children and how being apart from them deeply affects them. I am glad to volunteer for a charity that is trying to help maintain and strengthen the bond between father and child during imprisonment."

Supporter News
We would like to say a huge thanks to the staff at the London Collection and Compliance Centre for their generous donation to Pact following their Dress Down Friday. If your place of work regularly holds charity events why not suggest Pact as a possible charity to support?

We would also like to thank all those brave runners who took on the London Marathon to raise money for Pact. The money is still trickling in, but 2016 is on target to be the most successful year for Pact’s London Marathon teams! We are on course to raise over £10,000 and many Pact runners finished the 26.2 miles with some impressive finishing times.

Prison reform tops political agenda

In May we saw the release of the Dame Sally Coates report into offender learning, which highlighted the crucial role played by family and relationship education.

In the report, Dame Sally says:

"Education is more than a service provided by Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) providers in classrooms or workshops. All areas of the prison regime should be considered suitable for learning. My vision for prison education is holistic. It includes Personal and Social Development (PSD), including behaviour programmes, family- and relationship-learning, and practical skills (e.g. parenting, finance, and domestic management)."

Pact was delighted to have contributed evidence to the review, sharing the views and experiences of service users, and referencing academic findings and the theoretical base for how stronger, stable family relationships can improve outcomes for accommodation, employment, education and training on release, and a reduction in the risk of re-offending. Pact also welcomed members of Dame Sally’s team to observe our relationship group-work programmes in action, and we are delighted that the link between strong, positive relationships and desistance have been highlighted in the report:

"The panel has also seen education that supports healthy relationship and family tiesThere is good evidence that strong family relationships can help support prisoners in desisting from crime and thereby reduce reoffending."

Pact has delivered relationship programmes in prisons for over a decade, and despite the huge popularity of the charity’s relationship and parenting programmes with prison governors, officers, prisoners and families, there has not until now been a clear policy framework for this work to be commissioned within the learning curriculum. Pact is therefore particularly pleased to see a recognition that there are some barriers that need to be overcome.  

"I would like to ensure there are no barriers to funding family and relationship-strengthening approaches as part of a broad education offer."

Commenting, Andy Keen-Downs, Pact CEO, had nothing but praise for Dame Sally’s report, but sounded a note of caution:

"We applaud Dame Sally Coates for her vision. She has removed the shackles from offender learning, opening up the curriculum so that we can develop learning solutions for the causes of offending, rather than simply focusing on job-skills.  For far too long, the offender learning curriculum has been too narrow and utilitarian, and has failed to recognise that if we genuinely want to enable prisoners to leave prison with a home, with hope, and a purpose, we need to do everything we can to equip them with the skills to live in healthy relationships, as partners, fathers, mothers and citizens." 

Professor Nick Hardwick to speak at Pact AGM 

Please join us for this special occasion and hear from Professor Nick Hardwick, who has recently completed five years as HM’s Chief Inspector of Prisons. Meet Pact’s CEO, Andy Keen-Downs, senior staff and the Trustees. Hear about our plans for the year ahead and get the chance to ask a question or share an idea in our Open Forum. All are welcome, and we especially welcome ex-prisoners, prisoners’ family members, volunteers, staff, friends and supporters. There is no need to book, but seating will be on a first come first served basis. To find out more, please click here.

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