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Scottish prisons to allow parents ‘bonding visits’ in bid to reduce reoffending

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The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) hopes to reduce re-offending after prisoners are released with a new families and parenting strategy it believes can help offenders better adjust to life on the outside.

It comes in the same week the Scottish Government will approve plans for a phased early release of 550 prisoners across the country.

That has come as a solution to rising levels of prisoners across Scotland.

This new strategy allows parents to be involved in bonding visits with their children more often.

These are quite different from standard visits and allow prisoners to play with their children and even to make breakfast together.

Dads are also offered a 10 week ‘father’s programme’ during their imprisonment which help to prepare them for parenting once released.

STV News had an exclusive look at how these visits work.

David Pringle is serving a sentence in HMP Edinburgh, every week he has the chance to see his young daughter, as well as his Mum.

“Since she’s so young it’s quite a good thing to see her as often as I can, I feel good about it” he told STV News.

“I’ll spend more time with my kids when I get out because obviously at this point, I’m missing quite a lot.”

And that carrot at the end of the stick is exactly what the SPS hopes will help reduce re-offending rates and in turn bring down the number of people being held behind bars.

David’s Mum Anne Murdoch brings her granddaughter to see David every week, she tells us it has a big impact for both of them.

“It’s just brilliant.

“She draws up at the front bit of the building and she goes ‘Daddy, daddy’.

“She runs down the corridor shouting ‘Daddy’”.

David said: “Other visits you have to sit in your seat all the time, whereas with bonded visits you get to get up, walk around with your kid, as opposed to just sitting in a chair the whole time.”

Officials hope that by preparing offenders for family life and maintaining normal contact with children it’ll make the transition after release easier.

Fiona Cruickshanks is the Governor at HMP Edinburgh.

She admits the rising population within prison has made things harder but believes policies like this one can help ease pressures.

“Everything becomes more challenging when we’ve got high prison population it puts additional pressure on our resources, so we have more individuals all vying for the same service.

“Individuals that we have in prison are going to be going back out and back into that family unit.

“If we can work with them and their kids to try and develop and strengthen those family relationships then it means that when they return to the community the transition is a lot easier for them.”

The charity ‘Early Years Scotland’ are heavily involved in this new policy, which in many ways has already been in practice in some prisons – such as HMP Edinburgh.

Chief Executive Jane Brumpton said: “They have that chance to really bond and play and have fun with their child, even within what could be seen quite a challenging environment.”

“They talk to us about saying ‘I know now that my child needs me, I’m not going to come back in’”.

This strategy also focuses on the benefits for the children of prisoners.

Jane continued: “We do know how much of an impact that has for young children if they can develop those bonds and keep that relationship with their parents in prison.

“We know that is really needed, and it results in better outcomes for children and families.”

This strategy has been put in place across Scotland’s prisons for the next five years.

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