Family Support Crucial For Prisoners

Positive relationships and contact with family can play a crucial role in the rehabilitation process, the Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service has said.

Ronnie Armour recognised the importance of positive family connections and social support when launching the 'Big Visit' area at Maghaberry Prison on Wednesday, 06 November.

The only Category 'A' prison in Northern Ireland, Maghaberry also operates as a remand prison for all adult male prisoners in the country. It accommodates a range of sentenced prisoners such as life sentence, indeterminate and extended custody prisoners, separated prisoners, fine defaulters and civil prisoners.

As the Prison Service launches the Strengthening Family Relations Strategy, Mr Armour said family support can help offenders in their rehabilitation and deter them from re-offending.

"The Strategy acknowledges the part that families and wider social networks can play in supporting those in our care to move away from re-offending because we know positive changes can ultimately lead to better lives," he said. "We will also focus on children, who are often significantly affected by parental imprisonment.
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"The Northern Ireland Prison Service is committed to continuously improving how we work and respond to the needs of people in our care, which is why their views - and those of their families - have been instrumental in shaping this strategy.

"Today's official opening of the 'Big Visit' area and outside space is a tangible example of how we are putting the strategy into practice. I hope the new facility will bring a further sense of normality to family visits and provide an opportunity to create some positive memories together."

Run in partnership with Barnardos NI, the 'Big Visit' area was officially opened by Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, who said: "Healthy family relationships are key if children are to get the best possible start in life. It is, therefore, very encouraging that the NI Prison Service is working towards providing an environment that accommodates and encourages stronger relationships between prisoners and their children.

"Children must not be punished as a result of a parent being imprisoned. The new facilities will encourage more meaningful visits and I welcome the wider Strategy that recognises the importance of better family links. Positive and stable family relationships are directly linked to less re-offending, through providing greater support we benefit all of society."

Mr Armour added: "Work will continue in Maghaberry and across the prison estate, driven by the new strategy, to encourage and improve contact between families, support networks, and those in our care."


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