SSGT believes putting families at the heart of the criminal justice system and processes is the ‘golden thread’ which can reduce the harm of imprisonment and contribute to rehabilitation. Therefore, a strategic aim of SSGT is to contribute to improving the system of support for families affected by convictions and imprisonment to improve rehabilitation and resettlement outcomes. Evidence shows that prisoners who manage to maintain family bonds whilst in prison have significantly reduced reoffending risks upon release. Families cannot bear this burden alone and should be supported in this role. However, SSGT acknowledges family relationships are complex and systems should take account of the best interests of both the family and the prisoner.
 The Farmer Review (2017) identified the principle of strengthening family relationships as a ‘golden thread’ that should run through the prison system and agencies that surround it.
SSGT has developed a strategy for the grant programme underpinned by a belief that supporting the improvement and development of family centred approaches leads to improved outcomes for all. The voice of those most affected should be heard in policy and practice as this will lead to more effective supports as well as developing understanding of what works best. Duty bearers need to be held accountable for mitigating the harms of imprisonment on those who are/were incarcerated and their families. SSGT believes advocacy and activism is an important element of achieving systems change and it will be incorporated into both grant-aided work and the programme strategy. Activities which support families should be accessible to all and take account of the diversity of prisoners and families affected by imprisonment and the different pathways in and out of imprisonment and convictions.
SSGT’s approach, as a small grantmaker, is to work towards outcomes to which it can best contribute, given identified need and opportunities to engage. Therefore, the grant programme will seek to make a contribution to the following outcomes:
Outcome 1: Family-centred approaches to rehabilitation and reintegration become normalised in the prison system, at the point of imprisonment, during the sentence and on release: we are interested in work with people affected by imprisonment and convictions which has a strategic focus on their role as family members, and a recognition that partners and children serve the sentence too. This is a systems-focused approach which uses current evidence to effect change.
Outcome 2: The voice of prisoners and their families adds to the evidence base and understanding of the value of family-centred approaches to reintegration and maintaining family bonds: The voices of people most affected by decisions which impact them need to be heard at local and national levels. This could include establishing platforms and mechanisms which allow them to participate in decision-making forums and have their voices heard. Many people with lived experience of the criminal justice system develop a set of capabilities that enable them to advance transformative change, both in the lives of people affected by imprisonment and convictions and in the lives of those who make decisions which affect them.
Outcome 3: Government and state bodies are held accountable for reducing the harm of imprisonment to families: the focus is on ensuring duty bearers acknowledge the need for change and act accordingly. We are interested in improved policies, legislation and change to current practice which results in relevant agencies better meeting the needs of the whole family.
The grant programme deadline has passed. However if you are carrying out work that meets these outcomes, we would be interested in hearing from you.
This small grant programme was preceded by a partnership with the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and Probation Service (PS) and others for a public-facing criminal justice directory. IASIO, which provides social inclusion supports to exprisoners, was funded to develop the The Compass, a directory of community support services for people and families affected by imprisonment or convictions. It is the first of its kind in Ireland and was launched for IASIO in June 2022 by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee.
During the process to develop the directory a high level gap analysis was produced for SSGT in June 2021 – a summary of which is available here.
Funders: This programme is funded by a family foundation advised by Porticus.