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Helping children understand prison life
Guide from Sussex Prisoners' Families to help children and young people understand what life is like for a loved-one in prison.

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Life on the Inside

Life on the Inside is a children’s book written by prisoners for children which talks about daily life in prison and published by Sussex Prisoners’ Families. Children who have a loved one in prison often find it difficult to understand what is happening. Because they lack basic information, they often imagine something very frightening fuelled by images they have seen on films or on the internet.

So, the charity asked the dads at HMP Ford to tell them about day-to-day life in prison (although Ford is an open prison, most men will have experienced closed conditions). They have painted a picture of a life that is not glamorous or exciting – mostly it’s boring and difficult.  But it is hoped the guide will alleviate children’s fears; it talks about prison in a considerate and age-appropriate manner.
The book features honest photographs donated by prison photographer Andy Aitchison, featuring prisoners taking part in ordinary activities such as cleaning their cells, going to the library etc.

© Andy Aitchison


The guide is designed to give children an insight into the day to day life of someone in prison. Written in age-appropriate language with plenty of photos and graphics, the guide starts at the beginning of the imprisonment process, talking about arrival in prison, describing prison clothing and being honest about how scary the first few weeks can be.

© Andy Aitchison

This is a carefully thought out publication which provides an honest insight into what it is like to be in prison while keeping its focus on what children with parents in prison are likely to want to know. An early section describes the size of a cell and how it is furnished and includes the following crucial detail:

“We are allowed to decorate our cells and use toothpaste to stick up photographs.
Being sent photos of our loved ones is so important to us.”

© Andy Aitchison

The guide covers the everyday routine of prison life as well as including a particular focus on how people in prison can keep in touch with their children and loved ones. The guide includes separate sections on different aspects of prison life:

  • Arrival
  • Cells
  • Meals
  • Religion
  • Exercise
  • Library
  • Contact
  • Canteen (described as like a Tuck-Shop)
  • Work
  • Visits
  • Searching
  • Family Days
  • Support
  • Education & Training
  • Behaviour in prison and
  • Leaving.

Sussex Prisoners’ Families have made this excellent guide free to download here.

© Andy Aitchison

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