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Prisons: charity urges Government to prioritise families

Leading children’s charity Spurgeons has warned that building nine new prisons will make life harder for many of the estimated 200,000 children and young people in the UK who have a parent in prison ...

Leading children’s charity Spurgeons has warned that building nine new prisons will make life harder for many of the estimated 200,000 children and young people in the UK who have a parent in prison.

The charity runs Visitors’ Centres for the eight HMPS London prisons, receiving more than 230,000 visitors each year, including over 36,000 visits by children. Some 15% of visiting children have travelled for two hours or more so see a parent, and half of these are under the age of five. Travel time for families to visit loved ones in prison may increase when city centre prisons are closed in favour of new, out of town buildings which are likely to be more difficult to reach by public transport.

Spurgeons CEO Ross Hendry said: “Visiting a parent in prison is often a very daunting experience, and even more so when children arrive tired from a long journey. We want to urge the Minister of Justice to continue prioritising families and to consider the best interests of children and young people when planning prison reforms.

"Maintaining family relationships is paramount to the successful rehabilitation of many prisoners. We make it easier for families to maintain relationships by providing regular visits, family days and play facilities at the prisons. Plans for new prisons should include appropriate facilities to welcome children, and should ensure that visits to incarcerated family members are made easier.”

The warning comes at a time when Spurgeons joins many Christian organisations to ask the public to pray for prisoners and their families. Prisons Week runs from 15 to 21 November 2015. Special services and events will be held throughout the week and across the country, beginning with the broadcast of Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4 from HMP Long Lartin, Worcestershire on Sunday 15 November. Spurgeons is a sponsor of Prisons Week and will lead prayer sessions at several events over the week including at East Hill Baptist Church in Wandsworth and at HMP Wormwood Scrubs Visitors’ Centre.

Further information can be found at www.spurgeons.org

Organisations involved include: Assemblies of God, Caring for Ex-Offenders, The Church of England, Christians in Probation, Clean Sheet, Community Chaplaincy Association, Free Churches Group, Langley House Trust, The Methodist Church, Prisoner Advice and Care Trust, Prison Fellowship, Reflex, The Salvation Army, Spurgeons, Spread Creative Agency, United Christian Broadcasters and The United Reformed Church.

Sunday Worship at 8.10am on BBC Radio 4 on Prisons Sunday, 15th November will be broadcast from HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire.

From 2016, Prisons Sunday will move to the second Sunday in October. Prisons Week next year will be 9 – 15 October 2016.

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