Steve Brine cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Visitor Centre at HMP Winchester on Monday 17th October.
Before cutting the ribbon, Steve said: "I know it is not always popular to spend money on prisons, especially in these straightened times, but we should remember it is very hard on families and especially children when a family member is in prison. If we can see their contact with the Prison Service as an opportunity to address some deep rooted problems at the same time as they visit HMP Winchester, and if we are serious about reducing re-offending rates, then it has my absolute support.
"We know reoffending rates are reduced when a released prisoner has a stable family to return to and it is my hope this excellent new facility will go some way to making that possible in many more cases."
Steve was joined by his wife, Susie and young son William, who made use of the new childrens' play area which has been equipped through the generous support of Kids VIP and Spurgeons.
Spurgeons is a national children's charity, which has secured funding from the Department of Education and the Ministry of Justice and is now working in partnership with HMP Winchester to develop a support service for families of prisoners. When a family member is imprisoned the whole family is affected and many report feeling stigmatised and isolated within their communities making it increasingly difficult to access the information, support and advice they need.
Spurgeons' new Invisible Walls service will provide information and advice to families through the prison's Visiting Centre, linking families to the support and services in their own communities that can help them. Spurgeons is working in partnership with a range of organisations to build a service that supports families both while their family member is serving their sentence and on release. This includes children's centres – these are based within local communities and play a key role in delivering services to families with young children.
Spurgeons staff and volunteers will be available in the Visitors' Centre to help prepare families for visits and provide the opportunity to take about the visit afterwards. This can help to ensure that the prison visit experience is less stressful and a more positive experience for children involved. The aim of this is to encourage more frequent visits and to maintain family ties.
As well as supporting families visiting the prison, the Invisible Walls Service also co-ordinates support for fathers whilst they are serving their sentences, helping them to increase their parenting skills and confidence in the importance of their role as a father.
Pictured; Steve opens the new centre with guests including Mayor Barry Lipscomb looking on