Prison in-reach - helping mothers reunite with their children

Jul 21 2015

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Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant to support in-reach to Gloucestershire residents at HMP Eastwood Park by our long-standing supporters The Summerfield Trust. Here is a story of Lorraine who was one of the first to be impacted by this new in-reach project.

One of our Key Workers first met Lorraine whilst delivering in-reach to HMP Eastwood Park. Lorraine was 19 years old and had been remanded in custody for her involvement in a gang- related offence. She wasn’t due to be sentenced for another six months. When Lorraine met her Key Worker, she explained how much she desperately missed her three year old son, Jack, who was temporarily living with her own mother whilst she was in prison.

Although Lorraine has several close family members, her teenage years were not without disruption. Lorraine’s father had been in and out of prison throughout her childhood. He was also notorious throughout Gloucestershire. This made it difficult for Lorraine to break from family associations and reputation. She really did not want to follow the same path as her father and made sure she didn’t get into drugs or petty crime. Unfortunately though, she did become involved with a gang. She was extremely vulnerable and the gang leaders used her as a ‘honey trap’ which led to her offend.

Before going to prison Lorraine had lived in a two-bedroom property in Gloucestershire with her son Jack. This had been provided by a local Housing Association. For years, Lorraine had sofa-surfed and gone in and out of out of supported accommodation, waiting and waiting for a proper home. She finally managed to secure a family home for herself and her son. However, as a direct result of her offence, her Housing Association evicted them and they became homeless. Lorraine was very worried that on release, she would not be eligible for housing and would have to fight to get her son back.

Our Key Worker involved Lorraine’s mother with a plan to reunite Jack and Lorraine. Lorraine’s mother had been forced to reduce her work hours so that she could care for Jack and this was causing huge financial strain. Lorraine’s Key Worker was able to support her financially and advise on benefits, as well as other sources of financial assistance and support.

Six months later, Lorraine received a custodial sentence of two years and three months. Unfortunately, Lorraine was transferred to HMP Drake Hall which was 75 miles away. This meant that she could no longer see her own son. This was devastating and traumatic for them both as they had always shared a very close bond. Lorraine and her Key Worker stayed in contact throughout this time until eventually she was transferred back to HMP Eastwood Park for local release. Lorraine was released after a year for good behaviour.

With support from her Key Worker, Lorraine and her son moved straight into a furnished two-bedroom flat provided by Stonham Housing. Whilst in prison, Lorraine had lost all of her belongings. We made applications for funding for kitchen equipment and a double bed and a few other essentials to make the property homely. Lorraine and her Key Worker met frequently along with her link worker from Stonham to address any upcoming support needs. Together we ensured that Lorraine received the right benefits, emotional wellbeing courses and other appropriate support like access to children’s centres for Jack. 

Gradually Lorraine started to rebuild her life and prepare for the future that she so longed for. Once Jack was in nursery, she was keen to start work, so she booked an appointment with the Education and Training Advisor at ISIS. They put together her CV and researched courses and employment opportunities. Lorraine was determined to give back and wanted to help other women in similar situations as herself. She enrolled on a Level 3 Peer Mentoring course at ISIS.
Since her release, Lorraine’s Key Worker has helped her to reflect on how her personal circumstances contributed to her offending behaviour. Lorraine has grown in confidence and has become a positive role model for her young son. She has been offering peer support to other young mothers living in the Stonham accommodation and is hoping to enrol on an apprenticeship scheme with Stonham. She has also applied to become a volunteer at Gloucester Foodbank as she is determined to gain experience working with vulnerable individuals. Jack is now a happy little boy. He has started school and is making good progress. Together, they are looking forward to a bright and fulfilling future.

This is just one example of how prison in-reach has made a difference to one family’s life. To find out more about the project click here.