The elephant in the room is the one thing that she has refused to do and the one thing that will make a difference. It is the one thing that was used to hit the Sunday headlines. She has to reduce the number of prisoners. Prisons will not be safe and purposeful if they are grossly overcrowded. It will not work.
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.