In 2013, following extensive consultation on models of best practice by the Irish Prison Service (IPS), a partnership was formed between CDI, the IPS and the Parents Plus Charity to design and deliver an initiative project offering supports to parents in prison and their families, as well as training and support to prison staff.
Funding was received from the Katherine Howard Foundation and the Community Foundation for Ireland for a pilot phase which took place in Limerick prison from October 2014 to 2016. Following the conclusion of this pilot, the IPS named family support as part of its overall strategy, and CDI is now working in other prisons to establish Family Links there. The pilot phase in Limerick was evaluated by the University of Limerick.
The aims of the Family Links Initiative are to:
- Reduce recidivism by improving and enhancing the relationship between parents in prison and their families, and supporting this engagement both pre and post release;
- Implement strategies to address some of the issues identified in the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) report “Picking Up The Pieces”, particularly in relation to fostering a consistent approach to supporting connections between parents in prison and their children/ families and enhancing this relationship;
- Implement preventive measures, whereby children of offenders are less likely to reoffend if their parent’s recidivism is interrupted.
Drawing on an existing evidence-based programme (Parents Plus), and the independently evaluated implementation of CDI’s work with parents, a multi-disciplinary interagency service is being rolled out to other prisons, with the following objectives:
- Following appropriate adaption of the parenting programme, training and supports, pilot the Family Links Parenting Course in the prison environment, and in the community with their partners/families;
- Identification of staff with the appropriate motivation, values and skills to become Family Liaison Officers (FLOs);
- Delivery of training to FLO’s in relation to both the formal parenting course and informal parent supports;
- Provision of ongoing quality assurance, learning communities and coaching, to enhance skills and the integration of positive approaches;
- Capacity building with management/line managers in order that this approach becomes self-sustaining.
Delivery of the parenting course to prisoners is co-facilitated by teachers from the prison school and CDI and/or FLO.
Delivery of the parenting course to the partners/carers is co-facilitated by an identified community organisation (E.g. Tusla – Child and Family Agency) and CDI.
Findings from the University of Limerick on the Pilot Phase:
- Women were empowered;
- Improved quality of relationship and communication between prisoners and partners;
- Children always knew their father was in prison.
For more information on this project click here.