Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) Family Support at HMP SEND
HMP Send is a closed women’s prison with approximately 283 women in custody. Pact manages the Visit Centre and arranges fifteen family days a year for the women and their families. We also have staff play workers and volunteers who support the children when they visit providing arts and crafts and games. There is a tea bar open during visits for the families to buy refreshments for their loved ones. At Christmas time and Easter we have donations from local community groups and churches. Every child at Christmas receives a present thanks to these generous donations and we also have various entertainers visit on the family days. Recently we had a lady come in with her reptiles and we are hoping to raise enough money to have a petting farm come in next year. It is important for these women to maintain their family ties and see their children where they are able to. Statistics say that only 5% of children stay in their own home when a woman is sent to prison. Pact stands for Prison Advice and Care Trust. We are a national charity working to support prisoners and their families in England and Wales. Within our communities, there are victims of crime, people with convictions, and family members who have a loved one in prison. There may be people who work or volunteer in the criminal justice system too. For children, having mum or dad in prison is an experience which can damagingly affect the child’s whole life. Yet parental imprisonment is a more common experience for our children than divorce. Pact was founded 125 years ago; originally it was the Catholic Prisoners Aid Society. Today Pact is here for people of all faiths and none – but Christian values continue to influence the way we work: respecting human dignity, walking in solidarity alongside prisoners and their families, and believing that everyone can be redeemed and make a fresh start whatever they may have done. Bishop Rachel Treweek says, ‘The life stories of those caught up in the criminal justice system have usually been punctuated by broken relationships and separation: Doors closed within people and between people; potential left unlocked; pain and hurt kept locked within. Yet as a follower of Jesus Christ and as Anglican Bishop for prisons I believe in transformation and the endless possibility of new doors being opened - doors which can lead to healing and reconciliation and redemption’. Pact works in more than 60 prisons, in courts, and in communities, across England & Wales. A key strand of our work is to help men and women in prison to grow or maintain strong relationships with their families and others who can support them. Pact staff and volunteers also provide emotional and practical support to children and families affected by imprisonment. We give prisoners and their families hope, and a better chance of doing well together in the future. Research shows that where family relationships are supported, there is a 39% reduction in returning to crime. We are here for families, seven days a week. Pact operates the national Prisoners’ Families Helpline. We respond to calls from family members and friends who need information, a listening ear, or help reaching prison staff with their concerns. Our Helpline staff and volunteers listen well and give accurate information and support. We respond to a huge number of calls - 36,000 last year. Someone who attended a Pact Roadshow reported that on hearing about the work we do, she was impressed by, ‘The breadth of services which are offered, always with love and care, and the dedication and perseverance of Pact staff and volunteers.’ Our approach builds the common good and makes our communities safer. Pact’s Chief Executive Andy Keen-Downs says, ‘On my visits to prisons, I hear first-hand that for many prisoners, access to training, regular visits from family, mental health and spiritual support are limited by staff shortages. These are elements of the prison regime which help men and women to cope with life inside and to prepare for making that fresh start when they leave. We do our best at Pact to work together with families and with prison staff and chaplains, to support people to turn their lives around despite these serious challenges.’ Can you offer some time to volunteer with Pact or donate a present or voucher at Christmas and an Easter egg at Easter time? We would love to have you. We have a great team to give you training and support. With Pact, YOU can put your faith into action, helping to strengthen families going through what may be the worst times of their lives. You can help to rebuild communities. Please hold in your prayers and in your heart, our brothers and sisters in prison, people with convictions, and their families, and Pact’s work. This is a way you can help. Prayer can transform lives. Thank you very much for reading. Please give Pact some prayerful thought and support the work in whatever way you are able. Remember Jesus’ words: I was in prison and you came to me.