Sharratt, Kathryn and Cheung, R. (2014) Incentivising Prison Visits: new research findings on the needs of children with imprisoned mothers and fathers. Prison Service Journal, 216. pp. 24-29. ISSN 0300-3558

In April 2013, the Justice Secretary announced plans to make significant reforms to the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) Scheme in adult male prisons throughout England and Wales. This represents just one step in achieving the coalition government’s proposals to toughen prison regimes and enforce harsher penalties for prisoners who fail to meet expectations. Despite the proposed reforms to the Scheme, it appears that extra visits and access to Family Days will continue to be offered as a reward to male prisoners who behave responsibly and engage with sentence plan objectives. This is in contrast to the female estate where visiting arrangements were detached from the IEP Scheme five years ago — this was based on recognition that incentivising contact was incompatible with meeting the needs of imprisoned mothers and their children. This paper presents findings from in-depth interviews with families affected by parental imprisonment in England and Wales. It emerged that early, frequent and good quality visits are equally important in meeting the emotional needs of children with either a mother or father in prison. It is argued that including visiting arrangements as a key earnable privilege is incongruous with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) since restricting the frequency of visits and access to Family Days is clearly not in the best interests of most children. It is recommended that to effectively meet the rights and needs of children, arrangements for contact should also be detached from the IEP Scheme in the male estate.

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