MSP ‘SENT TO PRISON’ REPORTS ON EXPERIENCE

LOGISTICS AND COST OF FAMILY PRISON VISITS HIGHLIGHTED

The challenges faced by families affected by imprisonment were highlighted at an event in the Scottish Parliament this week when Ruth Maguire SNP MSP for Cunninghame South spoke about her visit to HMP Kilmarnock.

Ruth was sent to prison as part of a challenge to coincide with the 2018 Year of the Young People organised by Families Outside – the only Scottish charity that works to support families affected by imprisonment.

Children who have a parent in prison are three times more likely to suffer mental ill health. And contact with their imprisoned parent is crucial in maintaining children’s emotional well-being and capacity for resilience.

But maintaining that contact can be fraught with logistical difficulties – especially when substantial distances are involved, and can also be prohibitively expensive.

The challenge involved Ruth making her way from her home in Irvine to HMP Kilmarnock by public transport.

Reporting on her experience to an audience of senior government figures, charity representatives and prison staff, Ruth Maguire said: “I’m very pleased that I accepted the challenge of visiting my local prison and thinking about it from the perspective of the families who have to make the journey regularly.

“It was a daunting and sobering experience.

“These visits are incredibly important for maintaining family ties and relationships and helping prisoners rehabilitate.

“Yet the cost alone (my bus fare came to £8) makes them very difficult. And the logistics weren’t easy. I was on my own and I can imagine how much more difficult it would be with wee ones in tow.

“My buses were also delayed so through no fault of my own I was late for visiting time and because of this my visit could possibly have been cancelled altogether.

“I was impressed by the commitment of staff to making family visits work and pleased to learn that improvements to the visitor centre are planned soon.”

The meeting heard proposals for a national volunteer-led transport service to help overcome some of these issues and Ruth agreed to support further investigation of this.