Prisoners: Personal Records

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 16th December 2021.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, when his Department plans to begin recording data on prisoners' family circumstances and caring responsibilities as set out in the Prisons Strategy White Paper; and what data will be recorded.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what the planned publication date is for the collection of research into the numbers of children affected by parental incarceration as referred to in the Prisons Strategy White Paper; and what steps his Department is taking to address the specific needs of that group of children.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to ensure prisoners who lack family or other support are being helped to form relationships to support their rehabilitation with people outside or peers inside.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

We know that supporting and maintaining positive family relationships is an important factor in reducing reoffending, and positive family relationships have been identified as a protective factor in the desistance from crime.

The Basic Custody Screening Tool (BCST) is completed in the first few days following entry to prison, which includes information concerning a prisoner’s parental responsibilities. We intend to amend the BCST questions in the first quarter of next year to enable the recording of data on prisoners’ family circumstances and caring responsibilities. Once those changes have been made, we will be able to access this information centrally.

As part of the work delivering on the recommendations arising from Lord Farmers reports into strengthening family ties and intergenerational offending, we will work with other government departments to commission updated research to improve our collective understanding of the overall number of children affected by parental incarceration and the likelihood of those children becoming offenders themselves. We are currently in the process of scoping this research project and will be looking to take this work forward next year. Once we have the research planned, we will then be able to advise regarding when this may be published.

We appreciate that circumstances of an individual’s background or the nature of their offending might mean it is inappropriate or impossible for a prisoner to engage with their family. As part of the work taken forward through the auspices of implementing Lord Farmers recommendations, Governors are empowered to investigate alternative options, which will support those individuals, ensuring that they receive the same benefits towards rehabilitation.

A pilot led by the Innovations Unit is starting in the New Year in HMP Brinsford initially, before moving to HMP Swinfen Hall. It is funded by the Local Leadership and Innovations fund and looks to adapt the Life Long Links Initiative, which is run in some local authorities, for those in custody. This initiative involves identifying people who were a significant and a positive influence on the young person in prison and then inviting them to pledge support through their time in custody and after they have been released.

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