The Family Rock

Families may help in reducing reoffending, but are we unwittingly enabling their return to prison? Over the past few weeks, my blog has featured posts from prisoner’s families and ex-offenders who have spoken about reoffending and ways to reduce it. According to many organisations, families are the key to reducing reoffending but there are strong arguments against this. Many offenders who are addicted to drugs come from supportive loving families, many of whom have kicked their loved-one’s backside to the curb simply because they can do no more – and rightfully so. Some families do in fact reduce reoffending by using a tactic called enabling. Junkies love enablers, monies given to them by their nearest and dearest enables them to get high without committing crime. Mum, dad, grandma, grandpa, partner, husband and wife, would rather give their addict loved-one a tenner here and there in order to keep them out of jail. So yes, that’s one way of reducing reoffending – it’s not the right way by a long shot, but the addict is desperate and the families give in because how can they refuse their loved one a tenner for food or twenty quid for electric and nappies? The verbal gymnastics addicts do for a bag of gear is endless and eventually it takes its toll. Eventually the inevitable happens and the phone calls start. Your partner, son, daughter, is banged up and they need money for toiletries and stamps etc – or do they? Families are encouraged to visit their loved ones in prison to bond and maintain family ties. I get that especially where children are concerned, but what if this is your loved one’s second or third sentence? We are the ones who are supposed to help reduce reoffending so where are we going wrong? We send them money, we visit religiously, and we email and write to them, we phone their solicitors and probation officers passing messages back and forth because the money we’ve sent them for phone credit has been spent on ‘other things’. Seriously, where does this end? How can I prevent my partner from going to prison time and time again? The truth of the matter is this; I can’t. I can’t because he is the only person who can kick his drug addiction and he is the only person who can change his ways. The more I stand by him when he serves a sentence, the more he goes back inside. I visit, I send him money, I make sure I take money with me so I can buy him snacks, I take his daughter to see him and I leave feeling like I’ve just been to a funeral. How does the rehabilitation thing work when I am visiting my partner on his third prison sentence? He’s comfortable knowing that when he goes to prison, I’ll visit and do my prison widow thing all over again because that’s what families do. I’m not reducing reoffending, I’m actually encouraging it. Let us not forget; the system needs bottoms on beds otherwise thousands would not be able to afford their mortgages. So to say that families are the key to reducing reoffending is a complete and utter cop out. It’s a mind game played extremely well. Family rock Mum, dad, grandma, grandpa, partner, husband and wife would rather give their addict loved-one a tenner here and there in order to keep them out of jail Like many other families I am not paid to reduce reoffending. I was under the impression that probation officers and other professionals working in the system are paid for such roles? Why do we never hear; probation officers are the key to reducing reoffending? Why has the burden fallen on to families? What support does the system offer families when their loved one is released from prison and is still in active addiction? I’m not saying anything out of sorts because there have been numerous articles in newspapers recently about prisons being awash with drugs. So who supports families of offenders that are being released back into their family homes with an addiction? I don’t know how many prisoners are inside for drug related offences but I should imagine that overcrowding wouldn’t be an issue if the war on drugs had been won. The statistics must be high otherwise why would prisons be awash with drugs? As for families being the main individuals to reduce reoffending? That has to be the biggest insult yet. Prisoner’s families get little support from the onset so where does the miracle come from when their loved ones return home? You tell me!

Alison Henderson