Travelling Fellows highlight international best practice in prison reform

Travelling Fellows highlight international best practice in prison reform

A review of learning from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Prison Reform Fellowships highlights international best practice in penal policy with important lessons for prison reform in the UK. From 2010-2015, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) has funded Travelling Fellowships with a particular focus on prison reform across the world. The Fellowships are the result of an innovative partnership between WCMT and the Prison Reform Trust.

Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of ICPR have authored a briefing which highlights some of the learning from these Fellowships. This summary of what Fellows saw on their visits, and subsequent more detailed briefings, are being produced to inform the government's prison reform agenda.

The theme of the first briefing is 'connections'. Many Churchill Fellows visited interventions which seek to forge strong, positive connections among and between individuals, groups and organisations. Family connectionswere the focus of some Fellowships. A number, for example, reviewed interventions aimed at helping people in prison to maintain their family relationships, either through specific programmes or facilities for family visits to prisons; or providing practical and emotional support to family members of prisoners.

Many Fellows visited interventions seeking to harness the power of peer relations towards positive goals, including peer court programmes, the use of restorative approaches, and peer mentoring initiatives. Other Fellows explored problem-solving approaches to criminal justice, including holistic, multi-disciplinary work with children in custody; problem-solving courts working with dependent drug users, those with mental health problems, and the homeless; and collaborative working between the police and mental health services.

The building of a sense of self and responsibility was central to some interventions visited by Fellows. Some Fellows looked at arts and media projects providing opportunities for people who might otherwise have little voice to express themselves and thereby to reach out to others.

The report can be read here