Research indicates that prisoners who maintain close ties with their families while in prison are less likely to reoffend on release. At Novus, we’re looking to give our learners every chance to succeed on release, and we work hard to embed a family-forward approach to education in our provision. Doing so, learners maintain healthy relationships and are better positioned in their rehabilitation journey.
Across our prison estates, we run a variety of family engagement programmes, that provide contact links and opportunities for growth between our learners and their families. During the Covid pandemic, much of the contact that prisoners would regularly receive was cut off. We are now working to return to a normal level of engagement, and are prioritising this through our education and cultural provisions.
Developing reading skills and family ties in prison environments
Alongside other exciting programmes, we've previously collaborated with Horse and Bamboo at HMP Thorn Cross and HMP Buckley Hall. Over a four day period, we worked with learners to extend their literacy skills, making sure that they are better suited to support their own children’s reading and writing skills.
As part of the project, learners were encouraged to develop their own stories, creating characters and props that would bring these stories to life. The group engaged with all the activities and supported each other. They were able to share their own experiences through the story telling.
Learners had the chance to build displays and dioramas out of old shoe boxes and even suitcases, not only providing a creative outlet, but also making engaging content that they can share with their children.
Learner feedback from prison reading programmes
“This has improved my social skills by engaging with others in the group activities. I have enjoyed making something from scratch and I have found it calming.”, said one learner, who was excited to share the results of the project with their family.
“The course was fun, I did not know what to expect as it was new to me. My motivation was to create something for my family/ children. Once we got started, I got into the whole design and making of my idea.”
Working in partnership to promote prison education
The creative work was shared at family days, where we provide a space for families to connect through the arts and collaborated with Horse and Bamboo to make sure that family friendly enrichment activities were available.
This event has been a part of our ongoing partnership with the Horse and Bamboo theatre group. Through this partnership, we have worked to address the urgent need for reading skills education in prisons, with one of the most popular programmes being the ‘Give a Book’ Programme. In this, learners have access to a variety of donated books through the Prison Reading Scheme.
Working with Tate Liverpool to identify cultural opportunities for family enrichment
In February, at Tate Liverpool we showcased our Family Ties exhibition. This exhibition was the end point of this year’s programme, that was designed to support Novus learners to develop and maintain stronger ties with their families whilst in prison and provide the opportunity for them to engage with our education offer.
The sessions took place in seven different prisons across the Northwest and North Wales, from October 2022 to January 2023, with learners engaged in a weeklong block of in-person sessions. Artists from the Tate came in to run sessions that engaged prisoners in creative activities, followed by a family day in the prison, where the learners led their loved ones through a range of creative learning opportunities.
The project supported family ties; the learning created time to consider loved ones needs and interests. It created positive conversations on calls and visits and the family days gave the prisoners a feeling of empowerment as they led activities with their loved ones in a meaningful way.
Programmes like these are providing an inviting access point to education, preparing our learners for a life after prison and helping them strengthen ties with their families while in secure environments. Find out more about our provision on our website and read more about our partnerships and how you can get involved.