Families affected by imprisonment to take part in activities for Book Week Scotland

readingHomelessness and inclusion charity Cyrenians is hosting various activities at HMP Addiewell to celebrate Book Week Scotland and Prisoners’ Week.

The Family Visitors Centre at HMP Addiewell is run by the charity to support families affected by imprisonment. The facility provides families visiting loved ones with access to housing, health and welfare services, as well as offering advice, emotional and practical support.

The aim is to reduce re-offending by encouraging family contact, since maintaining close contact with family has been shown to reduce the risk of re-offending by up to six times and yet almost half of prisoners lose touch whilst in jail.

Book Week Scotland takes the theme of “nourish” this year, and families visiting prisoners are being asked by the Visitors Centre to think about nourishing their bodies with good food and nourishing their souls with books. The week aims to encourage families to read to their children and to read for pleasure.

A short story competition will be held for visitors on the theme of “my ideal dinner date”, and prisoners are taking part by creating papier mache models of their favourite meals/dish. Activities for children visiting prisoners include an art competition in which they will draw their favourite meal/food. An early years specialist from Bookbug (Scottish Book Trust) will be coming to the Visitors Centre to read and sing songs with children during visiting time.

Prisoners’ Week is a Church initiative aiming to celebrate and raise awareness of the work going on across Scotland to support prisoners and their families. The theme this year is ‘Hope Within’, with children and other family members visiting loved ones in prison being encouraged to use either art or words to express their hopes for themselves and their families.

These activities for Book Week Scotland and Prisoners’ Week are part of a year of health promotion work carried out in the Visitors Centre, focusing on healthy eating, coping strategies and thankfulness.

The impact of imprisonment on families may include loss of income/money worries, moving house or school, mental health issues, stigma and bullying and changes to family relationships.

Children with a parent in prison may feel isolated or ashamed, and they are twice as likely to experience mental health problems and three times more likely to be involved in offending. Prison Visitors Centres aim to help families to deal with the issues they face as a result of their family member’s imprisonment, as well as helping to break the cycle of offending.

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