Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) is a national charity whose main focus is to support people, and their families whilst going through a journey within the prison system. From those with convictions, to families who are struggling with a loved one spending time inside, PACT aims to minimise the damage imprisonment can do within relationships, and strives to brighten childhoods, with an emphasis on maintaining, and improving connections for parents and their children.
What do they do?
The services PACT can offer begin at the very first stage, pre-custody, and often don’t end until after leaving prison. I will give a brief description of the services on offer below, however, for much more in depth information please go to their website www.prisonadvice.org.uk.
Pre-custody, Court services
PACT have volunteers based in courts in London and North Wales, who are there to assist families and inform them of the process as it moves along. The highly trained volunteers can provide guidance on how sentences are calculated, and tell you what some of the terminology used in the courts mean. They can give you an idea of what prison your loved one may have gone to, as well as what the prison offers as far as services etc. They can also support families with emotional parts of this process, for example dealing with the aftermath of children witnessing the arrest, as well as information including what to expect next.
In Custody Services
There is so much that PACT can do within these difficult times. Their group work within prisons consists of workshops, and courses to assist with improving interpersonal skills, like conflict resolution, decision making and resettlement strategies. There are also courses available with the family connection in mind. Specific courses for parents in prison with young children, teenage children, as well as courses designed to strengthen relationships with partners.
Each of the group courses are designed with a specific goal in mind, and with the aim to strengthen family ties and therefore reduce reoffending.
PACT can offer support to prisoners in their first night/ early days of prison life. Their trained staff can support both emotionally, and practically in this difficult and often stressful time.
Their support doesn’t end there within custody services. The charity aims to improve the quality of prison visits by offering play services through visit times, as well as running visitors centres to make the process just a little bit warmer, encouraging that positive family connection.
Through the Gate
The support of PACT doesn’t stop on release. Within certain areas of the country they can provide mentoring to those leaving prison, which can be one of the most vulnerable times. What happens within the first few weeks of leaving prison can dictate which road is taken, so it is vital for people to have the care and support throughout this time.
PACT Through the Gate Mentoring Services can offer care and support around vulnerabilities that may be present, including mental health, physical health, homelessness, domestic abuse, and family tensions.
All the help offered by PACT on release from prison has the main aim to prevent reoffending, make communities safer, and improve the resettlement and quality of life for the individual and their families.
The Through the Gate Mentoring Services offered by PACT are intended to be short term, however, if a participant needs more long term care, then arrangements and connections can be made with other organisations in order to support their needs.
There are lots of resources available on their website, including videos designed around certain age groups to explain a little bit more about the process. You can also find really straightforward ways to receive the help you need, plus you can find a list of other organisations which you may find helpful.
There is so much more help available than I can even mention here, so if you are reading this and considering that PACT can help you, I encourage you to visit their website, or reach out to them.
How do I find out more?
If you would like to speak with someone via the helpline, then please call 0808 808 2003.
There are a couple of ways that you can support PACT and allow them to continue the wonderful work that they do. If you want to find out more about fundraising, then email [email protected] or donate directly to the cause here.
Volunteering for PACT can enable you to make a real difference to prisoners and their families lives, if you think you can help in regards to volunteering then please email [email protected]
There are also vacancies open at various prisons, so if you feel that your skills and experience can be put to good use then check out the vacancies section of their website.