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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
'Family role' in offender reform
Prison doors generic
Relatives would be briefed on the prison regime
Families should be given a bigger role in helping prisoners mend their ways, according to a former prison inspector.

Clive Fairweather made the call in a paper published for the Policy Institute think-tank.

He said families could take part in determining the way ahead for an inmate and in some cases could contribute to sentence and parole reviews.

His programme would cost up to 8m a year but Mr Fairweather claimed it might have "powerful benefits".

Mr Fairweather, who was Scotland's senior prisons watchdog from 1994 to 2002, said despite tougher sentencing in Scotland, two thirds of prisoners re-offended within two years of their release.

"Tentative steps to involve prisoners' families, who have an inbuilt incentive to prevent re-offending, in reformative programmes for those in custody have shown promise," he said.

Clive Fairweather
Families would be taking on the role as a prime encourager for the offender's co-operation and eventual change
Clive Fairweather

"We need a more determined, extensive and consistent effort in this regard."

He said the programme would have four steps.

First, prisoners' families would be briefed on the prison regime and involved in discussions about the way ahead for their relative.

"In effect they would be taking an active part in the sentence management process and taking on the role as a prime encourager for the offender's co-operation and eventual change," he said.

The second step would allow "strictly limited and nominated" relatives to contribute to sentence and parole reviews.

Thirdly, the families of sex offenders could become involved in the later stages of their treatment programme.

Each individual case must be assessed on its own merits
Annabel Goldie
Scottish Tory leader

"Though this might involve some element of risk and would have to be very sensitively handled," Mr Fairweather added.

In the fourth stage, families could be involved in pre-release arrangements such as accommodation, employment, or addiction counselling.

"These are areas which are also ripe for much more direct family involvement," he said.

Scottish Conservative Leader Annabel Goldie said families could play an important role and the proposals deserved wide consideration.

She added: "However, we must also recognise that for some people when they are released, rehabilitation - especially drug rehabilitation - requires a complete change of environment.

"In these instances the role of the family would still be to support but that would be more physically remote. Each individual case must be assessed on its own merits."

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