When you work with offenders, I believe the most powerful way to engage and motivate is to talk about family. That is not to say that family interventions work is easy, or that it represents a magic bullet for rehabilitation. But having worked intensively on establishing Invisible Walls Wales at HMP & YOI Parc, Bridgend, the very tangible results of the project speak for themselves.
This week the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison published a new report. It found that a chronic shortage of safe and stable housing for women leaving prison is leading to more crime, more victims and greater use of unnecessary and expensive imprisonment. Six in ten women leaving prison may not have a home to go to on release, and recent prison inspectorate reports suggest that the situation may be getting worse. Vulnerable women, desperate to secure a safe place to stay, are being deemed intentionally homeless and not in priority need. For some, getting sent back to prison seems like the only solution.
Debating Matters Beyond Bars was something positive to focus on with real meaning and purpose. I have no proof that this will have an impact on the rehabilitative agenda and reduce reoffending rates. However, I am certain that there needs to be a concerted effort to provide more opportunities like ours to remind them that their voices do matter.
Time and time again research shows us that children need their fathers, their grandfathers. Where there is love there is hope and the ability to continue to have strong, positive relationships no matter what barriers are in place. I see the love and hope every week, it flows through the barred windows and the cast iron doors. There is humour, there is tension, there is opportunity for the dads to be more and be better.
If successful, a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship will also help address ex-prisoner unemployment and welfare dependency, as well as create further employment opportunities while generating tax revenues. Most importantly, however, it will give ex-prisoners the fresh start they desperately need and surely deserve.
It is surprising how much knowledge there is available about women in prison. Despite this, their minority status has led to a small chapter or paragraph in a policy manual. Research for women in prison provides accessible and helpful information which could be used to promote equality for women in prison.
If punishment must be justified, and it must, it should be done so on the basis that morality is being restored. It is morally right and beneficial to society that people cannot get away with wrongdoing. To ensure people do not want to do wrong, weight must be given to making sure the punishment is justified on the grounds that the offender benefits to. Since deterrence did not stop them committing a crime in the first place, what would? A more moral and liberal system of punishment, surely?
Unsurprisingly, we must look to Silicon Valley for the new, cutting-edge innovation. Or more precisely, to the hills overlooking the bay, which are home to San Quentin, California's oldest prison. To put San Quentin in a UK justice context, it would be a category A prison - it's home to 699 death row inmates.