Tomorrow Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is to visit Perth Prison Visitors Centre, which recently received a ringing endorsement from the Chief Inspector of Prisons.
In the inspection report of Perth Prison, Brigadier Hugh Munro praised the positive benefit that the visitors centre – run by the Church of Scotland’s social care arm CrossReach – had to the community.
Describing the centre as a “magical place”, Brigadier Munro called for more such facilities to be provided in Scotland: “As an integral part of the approach to families, it is my view that at certain prisons, either those prisons which are national facilities or those with poor transport links, visitor centres should be an essential requirement.
“Visitor centres provide refreshments, a place to wait in decent conditions and an opportunity for families to gather themselves in advance of a visit and to regroup afterwards.
“The staff at visitor centres can provide essential support and advice to families and can signpost additional services as required”.
It is widely acknowledged by experts that prisoners who are able to maintain good family ties are almost six times less likely to re-offend. In 2010 almost 4,500 came into the Perth Prison Visitors Centre, and over 1,000 of this figure were children.
Families visiting the centre have access to a wide range of services including parenting support, benefits and housing advice and information on addictions issues.
The centre staff work with the prison family contact officers and other agencies to ensure that as many families as possible have a positive visiting experience, and can resolve problems as they arise, so that important family links can be supported.
There is no statutory funding available for such facilities and the prison visitors centre is dependent on trust funds and other charitable sources in order to continue to provide essential services. It has only a few staff, supported by a number of trained volunteers, who help keep costs down and allow the centre to remain open six days a week during prison visits times.
Elaine Waugh, the centre’s co-ordinator, said: “It is simply great to watch many different people use the centre in positive ways and to be providing this resource.
“We know this both supports families at a difficult time and also helps reduce the risk of re-offending and homelessness when prisoners are released which in turn helps whole communities.
“I hope we can continue to run for many years to come”
Notes to news desks:
Kenny MacAskill will visit the centre, situated at the gate of HMP Perth at 10am on Wednesday 19th January 2011. All media welcome.
For further information please contact Calum Murray, CrossReach director of adult care services, on 01738 783 200.
CrossReach, the social care arm of the Church of Scotland, is one of the largest operators of social care services in Scotland with over 80 homes and projects offering care and support to thousands of people in need every day
More children in Scotland each year experience a parent’s imprisonment than a parent’s divorce. 16,500 children in Scotland each year have a parent in prison. Over half of them witness their parent’s arrest. There is a well recognised link between parental offending and the risk of children offending in the future. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has called for more support to be available to families of prisoners both in order to help break intergenerational cycles of offending and to reduce the risk of those in prison offending again when released.
HMP Perth is the second largest prison in Perth with a capacity of 712.