Belfast Telegraph

Prisoners spend time with children in new family rehabilitation scheme

More than 70 prisoners are involved in a new family rehabilitation project in Northern Ireland.

Inmates spend time with their children while family members are taken on an escorted tour of Magilligan Prison.

Adele Norton, head of resettlement and rehabilitation at Magilligan, said: "What we are doing is bringing together families in what can often be very difficult times.

"As a prison service it's our job to help make Northern Ireland safer by supporting the people in our care to change and, as such, the ultimate aim of this scheme is to support and encourage family relationships.

"Once the prisoner is released the aim is that he will return to a stable, supportive family life, away from crime."

This week's Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland report said it was an example of good practice.

"Family induction visits enabled the prisoner's family to get a real insight into their relative's daily life at the prison," it said.

As part of the project, prisoners get to spend time with their children during extended visits while family members are taken on an escorted tour of the prison - visiting health, education and workshop facilities open to their imprisoned family member.

Prisoner support, charity and church groups are also involved in the Family Strategy Scheme at Magilligan, including Barnardo's, NIACRO, Extern, People Plus and the Vineyard Church in Coleraine.

Barnardo's project worker Ciara O'Donnell said: "We work with the dads in prison on all aspects of parenting, simply raising awareness of how the choices and decisions they have made impact on the lives of their children and partner."

One serving prisoner at Magilligan said of his experience of the scheme: "When you're inside your main concern is your family and kids. The family scheme is invaluable.

"You learn how to be a better parent and getting to spend time with your family in a normal setting is a real boost."

The recent inspection praised other encouraging work at the County Londonderry jail.

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