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a directory of organisations specialising in helping the families of people in touch with the criminal justice system

offenders' families

Forgotten victims

Everyone knows that family support is key to going straight; a common-sense factor which is also confirmed by the evidence base; a recent Prison Inspectorate report concluded:

an offender’s family are the most effective resettlement agency.

While many families are devastated by the imprisonment of a loved one, others may admit to mixed feelings or even relief that a sometimes disruptive or violent person has left the family home.

Most organisations working with offenders are focused on the individual and have little time or resources to provide advice or support to family members.

However, there are a number of organisations specifically dedicated to this work and this resource page lists the main organisations which can help.

Inevitably, many good examples have been left out. If you run or have experience of an organisation which provides support to families, please: Get in touch.

Helping organisations

Action for Prisoners’ and Offenders’ Families  is a national organisation which works for the benefit of prisoners’ and offenders’ families by supporting families who are affected by imprisonment. You can find information about the National Offenders’ Families Helpline, resources for families and professionals, and also their Hidden Sentence training for professionals working with families. You can call 0808 808 2003 for info and advice if you’re worried about your family member in prison.

Adfam is the national charity working to improve life for families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam works to empower family members and carers, support frontline workers and influence decision-makers to ensure the voice of families is heard and met. As well as providing a range of information and resources for family members and professions, Adfam has a map of a local family support groups across the country so family members know where to access support they need.

Assisted Prison Visits is the part of the Ministry of Justice which can help with travel costs for visiting a close relative or partner in prison. Contact details:    Telephone: 0300 063 2100 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Children Heard + Seen is a charity that supports children and families impacted by parental imprisonment. Offering 1:1 specialist support, mentors for children, group activities and arts and music-based therapy to children who are facing the shame and stigma that is attached to having a parent in prison. If you would like support or know a family who would you can email, call us on 07557339258 or send a private message on our Facebook page

Email a prisoner lets family members send messages to a prisoner via their website. The message is printed inside the prison and will be included in the daily mail delivery. Messages cost 40p.

Families outside is an independent charity which has been helping prisoners’ families in Scotland for over 20 years; offering support and information to families affected by imprisonment. Helpline number: 0800 254 0088.

North East Prisoner Family Support (nepacs) is a north east charity which has been supporting people affected by imprisonment for over 130 years. It supports a positive future for prisoners and their families by providing practical and emotional support from the courts in Teesside and Durham to helping families to maintain contact during the prison sentence through our prison visitors’ centres, family support workers, and child and youth projects, and then, at the end of the journey, offering prisoners and their families support and guidance about release from prison and resettlement in the community.

Ormiston Families’ Unite Programme supports children and their families affected by offending behaviour to stay together. This support is provided by services for those visiting relatives in prison, through the Transforming Rehabilitation Service for short-sentence prisoners and their families, and through the Breaking Barriers community outreach service to assist children affected by imprisonment. The Unite Programme also helps youngsters cope with the trauma of offending or family imprisonment, and maintaining positive family ties which reduces the risk of reoffending and cycles of intergenerational offending.

Out There works across Greater Manchester delivering  community based support to families of prisoners  (telephone support, casework including home visits, mutual support groups at premises in Old Trafford.  They also work with the whole family and the offender for 6-12 months after release connecting the offender to services to help with benefits, housing, drugs and alcohol and relationship support

The Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact) is a national charity that provides support to prisoners, people with convictions, and their families. We support people to make a fresh start, and minimise the harm that can be caused by imprisonment on people who have committed offences, on families and on communities.

Prison Widow UK is an online platform for prisoners families who can safely and anonymously share their experiences and stories to raise awareness. It was founded by Alison Henderson who relates to the emotional hurdles often faced by families and friends of prisoners living with the struggle on the other side of the wall. The blog site features latest prison news, supportive articles on substance misuse, personal stories and posts written by ex prisoners who share their experiences on what life is like for them once they have been released from prison. Prison Widow UK also passionately promotes family ties and positive interaction by advising families on great ways to write interesting and meaningful letters to their loved ones.

POPS (Partners of Prisoners & Families Support Group) is a needs-led organisation, established in 1988 by family members experiencing the stigma of supporting a relative through a custodial sentence. POPS supports in excess of 240,000 offenders’ families in a prison and community setting through a range of person-centred services which provide one-to-one support, targeted interventions, advice, guidance and referrals for issues such as housing, debt, employment and mental health. POPS also actively builds capacity amongst professionals through our training offer.

Safe Ground design and deliver high quality group work with men, women and young people in custodial and community settings. We work with staff and service users to change culture, attitudes and improve relationships. We have 21 years of impact and evidence. Our flagship programmes, Family Man and Fathers Inside are internationally recognised family relationship programmes and our therapeutic group work and arts methodologies are proven to support intellectual and emotional learning, growth and development.

Spurgeons runs visitor centres in London prisons allow children to visit their loved ones in a friendly environment and their mentoring and support programmes give young people the chance to reduce negative behaviours and build a better future.

Storybook dads helps prisoners record and send a bedtime story disc to their children, providing comfort and reducing the trauma caused by the forced separation. Doing something positive and tangible for their child increases their self-esteem and belief in themselves as a valued parent.


But the site also holds a number of more in-depth resources, all of which are free-to-access and/or download. These include:

You will also find a copy of the Criminal Justice Alliance’s Criminal Justice Dictionary if you need help with all the latest acronyms.

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