Moving Into and Through Prison: Improved Wellbeing through the SPARC and Prison Voicemail Initiatives

Smith, Lauren (2019) Moving Into and Through Prison: Improved Wellbeing through the SPARC and Prison Voicemail Initiatives. In: International Corrections and Prisons Conference, 23rd October 2019, Montreal.

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Moving Into and Through Prison: Improved Wellbeing through the SPARC and Prison Voicemail Initiatives
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Abstract

PART A
Supporting People After Remand or Conviction (SPARC): An Innovation in Pre-Custody Care
ABSTRACT
Background: It is widely publicised that the journey through the criminal justice system is turbulent for many, characterised by family breakdown, poor health and increased risk of suicide and self-harm. Prisons have an opportunity to change the life course of large numbers of people, either for the better or for worse (Bierie and Mann, 2017). In the UK, the Bradley Report (Bradley, 2009) presented an extensive plan to reduce reoffending and improve public health by ending the ‘revolving door’ to custody for mentally ill and learning disabled offenders. Part of the plan was to improve screening and the provision of support for prisoners entering custody to ensure the right services are available for people in contact with the criminal justice system. The Supporting People After Remand or Conviction (SPARC) project was set up to meet these recommendations. Initially developed and implemented in Lincolnshire, UK, SPARC provides support to people sentenced or remanded by the courts, in their transition into prison custody. It operates as a service fully integrated into the court and prison delivery settings. SPARC aims to assist those coming into prison to achieve the basic stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need (Maslow, 1943) and to ensure the treatment of people with decency, kindness and fairness. SPARC aims to specifically support the basic needs of men and women during their transition into and early days in prison custody on the basis that this provides them with a better opportunity to engage in their prison sentences, address their offending behaviour and successfully reintegrate into the community and lead law-abiding lives.
Aim: To describe the SPARC model of intervention, provide an overview of the first two years of population data and provide evidence of the positive impact of supporting men transitioning into prison custody from court.
Methods: Data from 1,093 SPARC “keep safe” interviews were collected from 1st December 2013 to 30th November 2015 to provide information about the needs and characteristics of people entering custody from court. In a second phase, 289 surveys were completed of individuals at some point during their prison sentence which included the Clinical Outcomes Routine Evaluation (CORE) to assess mental health and well-being. Focus groups were completed with 11 men in prison who had been through SPARC. The model was evaluated using a mixed methods design.
Results: Results indicated that people entering prison custody from Court have a diverse level of need across learning, language, physical health, mental health, and substance misuse and that much of this demonstrates an over-representation when compared with the general population. Men who had received the SPARC intervention displayed significantly higher levels of wellbeing as indicated by the CORE, than those who had not received the intervention. The focus groups indicated that SPARC had immediate and long term positive impact.
Conclusions: The SPARC service is an effective and sustainable way in which the specific needs of prisoners entering prison custody are assessed and addressed. This lends itself to better engagement in sentence plans, improved functioning in prison, improved opportunity to address offending behaviour, and subsequent improved reintegration into the community.

PART B
Prison Voicemail: An innovative method of communicating to maintain and improve family ties

Background: A breakdown of family relationships while in prison is a significant risk factor for incidents of suicide and self-harm. For example, prisoners who attempted suicide were found to have reduced contact when compared to those who did not attempt suicide (Liebling, 1992). A failure to maintain family ties can lead to increased emotional instability during imprisonment and limited social ties for release (Adams, 1992; Cochran, 2012). Conversely, the maintenance of consistent family contact can reduce the sense of isolation while in prison (Agnew, 1992), provide support and hope for release (Rocque et al, 2013), contribute to decreased misconduct amongst inmates (Maruna, 2001) and reduce the likelihood of reoffending (Sampson and Laub, 1993). Imprisonment is often a traumatic time for the family and friends of those incarcerated. Families often report a negative impact on their finances, emotional wellbeing and childcare as a result of the detention of a significant family member (Loucks, 2004; Murray, 2005; Codd, 2007). In his UK landmark review, Lord Farmer (2017) therefore recommended that the maintenance of relationships with families and significant others amongst prison populations must become the ‘golden thread’ of detention and rehabilitation. Prison Voicemail is an innovative service which supports contact with families and significant others while in prison through the exchange of voicemails. Provided through prisoners’ normal prison phone accounts, and in agreement with prison security departments, it is a flexible and adaptable service which overcomes some of the challenges faced by prisoners in maintaining contact with their families and with the communities outside prison that they are likely to return to. Messages can be left or accessed by the prisoner at any time, overcoming some of the restrictions imposed by prison regimes thereby allowing families to leave and receive messages in a much more flexible manner than phone calls.
Aims: This paper will outline the Prison Voicemail model and provide the results of an initial evaluation of its impact on prisoners and their families.
Methods: The evaluation used a mixed methods design. Surveys were sent to prisoners and to their families. 77 families and 81 prisoners provided feedback using the surveys. A further 18 family members participated in telephone interviews. The surveys were analysed using SPSS and the interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: The results provided evidence of the positive impact that Prison Voicemail has on prisoners and their social contacts with regard to increased contact, improved relationships, improved health and wellbeing amongst all parties, the resolution of practical issues arising and improved behavior.
Conclusions: At a time when there is increased expectancy amongst correctional establishments to work to maintain and improve family ties amongst prisoners, Prison Voicemail offers a sustainable and effective method of increasing communication. This has been shown to have a positive impact on various factors important to prisoners and their family and friends.

Keywords:Prison, Court, Family Ties, Reoffending, Transitions, Custody
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:36340
Deposited On:03 Jul 2019 15:35

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