Bishop commends new report that calls for families to be more involved in prison healthcare

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The Right Reverend Richard Moth, Lead Bishop for Prisons at the Bishops’ Conference, has affirmed a new report by Pact, the national Catholic prison charity, which amplifies the voices of families supporting unwell loved ones in prison.

Titled ‘Nobody’s Listening’, the report asserts that involving families more proactively in prisoners’ healthcare would reduce deaths in custody, relieve pressure on the NHS and the criminal justice system, and cut crime.

Key Findings

  • Prisoners’ mental and physical health at historically low levels following Covid
  • Families too often ‘locked out’ of the system, unable to support their loved-ones who are unwell
  • A more proactive role for families would save lives, as well as relieving pressure on the NHS and reducing reoffending

Pact, the Prison Advice and Care Trust, spoke to families caught up in the criminal justice system, inviting them to share their experience of trying to support loved ones in prison.

The report finds that when families are involved in the process everyone benefits – prisoners, families, the criminal justice system and the NHS. When the system works well it can have a positive impact on people’s health, allowing prisoners to access previously unavailable support.

However, the report concludes that families and significant others are too often locked out of a system that doesn’t value their role as carers. This creates a range of problems – the ripple effects of which are felt well beyond the prison gates.

Lead Bishop for Prisons, Bishop Richard Moth, said:

“I am pleased to welcome the publication of this new research by the Prison Advice and Care Trust. It reveals the central importance of family involvement in keeping prisoners safe and healthy and re-affirms the dignity of the human person and especially the importance of family relationships.

“Involving family members in prison healthcare reduces deaths in custody and makes our communities safer, yet much more needs to be done to ensure more proactive and positive family engagement. It is to be hoped that the Government will consider carefully the recommendations of this report. 

“Pact is to be thanked for its continued dedication to improving conditions for prisoners and their families within our criminal justice system.”

Pact has made a series of recommendations to improve the way that healthcare providers and prisons can involve families more proactively, such as:

  • Diverting more appropriately risk-assessed people with mental health problems to community treatment and secure treatment settings
  • Training for staff to ensure that they understand how to involve family members
  • A single point of contact in every prison to champion the role of families in the healthcare process

Andy Keen-Downs, CEO of Pact, said:

“All the research and guidance stress the crucial role that families have in caring for loved-ones who are ill. Families bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge – they know what ‘well’ looks like and understand the subtle signs that someone is struggling.

“We found examples where the system works well and people’s health had improved while they were in prison. But all too often guidance about family involvement is simply not put into practice, leaving family members locked out, prisoners struggling and a healthcare system under pressure.

“Ensuring that prisoners get access to the right healthcare isn’t just about doing the right thing – it creates safer prison regimes, reduces reoffending and relieves pressure on the NHS.”

The report also sets out some of the statistics that illustrate the extent of the health problems facing the prison population:

  • Half of prisoners, and three in five female prisoners, have a mental health problem.
  • Rates of self-harm are near record levels – 684 incidents per 1,000 prisoners.
  • One in three prisoners has a serious drug addiction.
  • Prisoners have a life expectancy 20 years younger than the general population.


Visit Pact’s website for the full report – ‘Nobody’s Listening’


Quotes from family members included in the report:

“People recover better when their family are involved if you cut that off then you are just creating a revolving door because you are not going to find the right solution.”

“Those high walls are not just a physical manifestation… as a metaphor it is a barrier that is screaming ‘you have no voice!'”

“They should let us be involved, they should let me know what is going on. If I am the person who is going to have to look after him when he is released then they need to be involving me now.”

“I just feel like my voice hasn’t been heard… I just wanted to look after him, I’m his mum.”

“The lady in the mental health department persuaded me to get the medication and I kept seeing her two or three times a week throughout my sentence… the treatment I got in prison was better because it was a small community… they were more on it.”

“He’s stopped smoking since he went in – completely. He’s looking better in himself… less stressed and tense. If I’m honest it has probably given him a few more years on his life – his physical health has definitely improved.”

A family member who contributed to the report:

“I pray that changes are made to our justice system. No one will ever know how hard this journey is. Sending love.”

About the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact)

Pact is a pioneering national Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. It provides caring and life-changing services to all, at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.

Pact’s vision is of a society that understands justice as a process of restoration and healing, uses prisons sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and values the innate dignity and worth of every human being.

Pact works to:

  • Build stronger families and safer communities.
  • Reduce risk of harm to prisoners and their children.
  • Remove barriers and increase awareness in public services.
  • Influence commissioning, policy and legislation.