Families Helping Jailed Fathers Back to Straight and Narrow; Pioneering Programmes at Parc Prison Are Helping Inmates and Attracting Attention in Penal Reform Circles. Channel 4 News Correspondent Andy Davies Reports after Being Given Unprecedented Access to Prisoners and Their Families

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 7, 2016 | Go to article overview

Families Helping Jailed Fathers Back to Straight and Narrow; Pioneering Programmes at Parc Prison Are Helping Inmates and Attracting Attention in Penal Reform Circles. Channel 4 News Correspondent Andy Davies Reports after Being Given Unprecedented Access to Prisoners and Their Families


IT'S not often you see a small child being frisked, pockets emptied and then circled silently by a drugs dog.

For four-year-old Riley Gilbert, however, and his older brothers, Arthur and Zach, this is now routine. One moment he's in nursery, the next he's weaving his way through the heavy-duty security apparatus of a Category B prison. Such is life as the child of a prisoner.

Riley's father, Jonathan Gilbert, 46, is serving a 12-year sentence in HMP Parc, Bridgend, for his part in a multi-million-pound mortgage fraud . "I am a disgrace to my former profession," the ex-solicitor tells Channel 4 News.

Earlier, along with 15 other inmates enrolled in a Fathers Insideparenting class, he comes close to tears after a prison officer asks him to imagine life as a child whose father has left him.

Emotional self-scrutiny is positively encouraged in HMP Parc's groundbreaking Family Intervention Unit [FIU], a designated 60-bed wing which is attracting increasing attention in penal reform circles.

"They have to accept that they've caused damage if they're going to repair it," says Corin Morgan-Armstrong, head of Parc's Family Interventions programme.

The prisoners' criminal back-kgrounds vary widely (from serious violence to drugs offences), but no sex offenders are admitted on the wing. Every inmate in the FIU is a father and every cell door is flanked by a mission statement. Beneath one prisoner's photo it reads: "I came to the FIU to [prisoner then writes] have a closer relationship with my kids".

The wing's ubiquitous posters and murals reinforce core themes such as: "The family man does not put crime before his children, his family, his freedom".

Large canvas paintings display winsome images of parents and children at play. One wall is strewn with paper butterflies bearing handwritten messages from the inmates' children. One reads: "I hope Dady [sic] tickles me."

It's about "turning on the valve of empathy", says Morgan-Armstrong, who has been running the unit for five years. Influenced by what he says is mounting evidence that prisoners' families can play a pivotal role in reducing Britain's chronic reoffending rates, he's brought together a wide range of programmes designed to embed the family in the inmate's rehabilitation.

Courses include Fathers Inside and Family Man (parenting skills); Baby Steps (pre- and post-natal advice including baby-bathing tutorials); Language & Play and Learning Together clubs (where prisoners and children do schoolwork together). The charity Barnardo's is involved, as well as numerous other partner agencies including the Scouts and British Red Cross. …

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Families Helping Jailed Fathers Back to Straight and Narrow; Pioneering Programmes at Parc Prison Are Helping Inmates and Attracting Attention in Penal Reform Circles. Channel 4 News Correspondent Andy Davies Reports after Being Given Unprecedented Access to Prisoners and Their Families
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