This is a summary of the key findings of an independent evaluation of Invisible Walls Wales (IWW), a Big Lottery funded project based in HMP Parc, aimed at maintaining and improving relationships between male prisoners and their children and families.
The overall conclusion was that IWW has been an exceptionally successful project, which has had a significant positive impact on the lives of the prisoners and families who participated, and has the potential to have a major effect nationally (and even internationally) on thinking, policy and practice in regard to the children and families of prisoners.
IWW adopts a ‘whole family’ approach, providing support to offenders, partners and children for up to 12 months pre-release and six months post-release via three integrated ‘hubs’ of activity (prison, transitional and community). Key elements of the project are the Family Interventions Unit (FIU – the first of its kind in a male prison in the UK), the Interventions Led Visitors Centre (ILVC), through-the-gate casework by Family Integration Mentors (FIMs), and partnership with community-based agencies. The main partners working with G4S are Barnardo’s Cymru, Bridgend Social Services and Gwalia.
The IWW project has three over-arching objectives, namely to:
• Reduce the likelihood of offender participants returning to crime and imprisonment post release.
• Increase quality of life and community inclusion for whole families.
• Impact positively upon issues relating to risk of intergenerational offending.
While the initial funding for the project has come to an end, IWW has evolved into an ongoing service, albeit reduced in scale, with joint funding from G4S and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).
Authors of the report: Anna Clancy and Mike Maguire
(University of South Wales)
With Financial support from the Criminal Justice Programme of the European Commission