Is 'normalisation' the key to prisoner rehabilitation in the UK?

HMP Oakwood has opened six new family visiting rooms to enhance the relationship between prisoners, their families and significant others to help reduce reoffending.

Father and son at HMP Parc

G4S managed HMP Oakwood hosted a conference exploring how enhancing the relationship between prisoners and their families and significant others can improve prisoner rehabilitation in the UK on Wednesday 22 May 2019. 

HMP Oakwood Director John McLaughlin was joined by Lord Farmer, author of the landmark 2017 Farmer Review which highlighted the importance of strengthening prisoners' family ties to prevent them from reoffending. 

“There is clear evidence that prisoners who regularly receive visits from their family members and significant others are less likely to reoffend,” said John McLaughlin. “We place great importance at HMP Oakwood on ensuring that the men in our care can maintain the close bonds they have with their loved ones. Today’s conference is all about exploring how prisons in the UK can enhance those relationships.”
HMP Oakwood are not resting on the laurels of their good existing family work, they are keeping up the momentum of change my report helped to catalyse.
Lord Farmer Chair, Farmer Review on Importance of Strengthening Prisoners' Family Ties to Prevent Reoffending and Intergenerational Crime
Lord Farmer said: “HMP Oakwood are not resting on the laurels of their good existing family work, they are keeping up the momentum of change my report helped to catalyse. By sharing their practice more widely they are inspiring other prisons to step up their efforts to address the patchiness of family support I found across the prison estate.” 

The conference came after a small team from HMP Oakwood went to Denmark to see how the concept of ‘normalisation’ - where prison conditions are designed to resemble life outside the prison as much as possible - can achieve lasting rehabilitation.  
New family visiting room at HMP Oakwood
The visit inspired the team at HMP Oakwood to design new family visiting rooms which aim to replicate a normal family living room in a prison environment. They will encourage the Danish concept of normalisation by allowing residents and their family members and significant others to meet in a quiet space to interact, while under regular prison supervision. The six new rooms were opened by Lord Farmer at the conference.

The conference built on the work already in place at HMP Oakwood to support family contact, which a recent inspection report called “outstanding”. The prison has a wide range of family interventions in place, including a family BBQ, parenting classes and homework club. It was one of the first prisons to provide a scout pack for prisoners’ children, allowing prisoners to spend more time with their children.

The trip to Denmark was organised with funding from ERASMUS+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport.
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