The Golden Thread: Putting family at the heart of the criminal justice system

The importance of family to our criminal justice system cannot be understated. And yet it all too often remains an afterthought.

While multiple governments have committed to harnessing the power of family to change lives in the system, we have heard repeatedly through the course of this research – from prison staff, police officers, frontline charities, and the families and children themselves – that these sound intentions have rarely translated into meaningful change on the ground. This is despite the fact that the odds of reoffending are 39 per cent lower for a prisoner who receives visits from a partner or family member than for a prisoner who does not.

A reduction of only 10 per cent in reoffending would not only lead to thousands fewer victims of crime, but an estimated economic benefit of  1.8 billion.2 The failure to fully unlock the potential of family across the criminal justice system is a longstanding missed opportunity.

Most significantly, it is a betrayal of the families and children who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in contact with the criminal justice system. As we have heard firsthand, families of prisoners regularly find themselves treated as ‘guilty by association’ and lacking the support they need to confront the challenges associated with their relative’s imprisonment.

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