Healthier prisons: The role of a prison visitors' centre

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Woodall, J ; Dixey, R ; Green, J ; Newell, C (2009)

Since the inception of the prison as a ‘setting’ for health promotion, there has been a focus on how the health of those men and women who spend ‘time inside’ can at least be maintained and if possible, enhanced, during their prison sentence. This paper presents findings from a mainly qualitative evaluation of a prison visitors' centre in the UK. It reports experiences of prisoners' families, prisoners, prison staff, the local community and the ways in which the visitors' centre has contributed positively to their health and well-being. In addition, key stakeholders were interviewed to ascertain the role this visitors' centre has in policy frameworks related to re-offending. The findings from this evaluation underscore how the visitors' centre improved the quality of visits, and contributed towards the maintenance of family ties through the help and support it provides for families and prisoners. The paper concludes by suggesting that visitors' centres are an essential part of a modern prison service helping to address the government's health inequalities agenda.
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