Catholic prison charity Pact has underlined the importance of prison visits following new funding and the Ministry of Justice’s announcement that dozens of prisons will be fitted with new scanners for staff and visitors.
The scanners are being introduced as an attempt to stop drugs, phones and other contraband entering prisons at the gates of the 44 “most challenging” prisons by the end of March.
Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, said:
“These X-ray bag scanners are a powerful addition to the body scanners, drug-trace machines, metal detection archways and extra drug dogs we have added in recent years to keep drugs, mobile phones and other contraband out of our prisons.”
Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) is the national Catholic charity providing support to prisoners’ and their families. The charity seeks to minimise the harm caused by imprisonment, including support for children with a parent in prison.
Pact CEO Andy Keen-Downs called on the Ministry of Justice to ensure prisons do not become ‘intimidating’ as a result of the new scanners.
“Security must be paramount and we fully support proportionate measures to keep drugs and weapons out of prison,” Mr Keen-Downs said.
“However, we must ensure that visitors aren’t put off by an intimidating environment. People who receive visits during their time in prison are nearly 40% less likely to reoffend. We’ll be working with the prison service to make sure that these new measures are implemented in a sensitive way.”
In other Pact news, Pact’s Visiting Mum project, which supports Welsh mothers in prison to maintain positive relationships with their children, has had further funding confirmed.
Between June 2021 and August 2022, Visiting Mum supported 68 Welsh women and their families. The project is jointly funded by the Welsh Government and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). Both are contributing £90,000 in 2023-24 to ensure many more families can benefit from the scheme.
Nadia Emblin, Head of Service Delivery and Development in Wales and Western England, confirmed the scheme’s ‘positive impact’ and welcomed the funds.
“Our evaluation shows the positive impact of this kind of holistic support on the mental health and wellbeing of the whole family. It is also vital in reducing reoffending, as we know that prisoners who receive visits are 39% less likely to return to prison,” she said.
“We are hugely grateful to our partners at Change Grow Live, and to the Welsh Government and HMPPS for ensuring the scheme can continue. One mum recently told us that it offered, “a light in the dark” for her during her sentence, and we hope that we can provide this hope for many more women in the future.”
Scanner -PA Media Picture by: Ministry of Justice