HMP Winchester Celebrates 10-Years Of The Invisible Walls Programme
HMP Winchester celebrates 10-years of the Invisible Walls programme - keeping families together and reducing reoffending.
‘Invisible Walls’, a prison-based family support service run out of HMP Winchester by Spurgeons Charity, has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary in late at a ‘Past, Present and Future’ themed event held at the Spurgeons Family Centre.
Local dignitaries and fathers who have taken part in the programme were in attendance.
Adam, a 41-year-old father, now living in Hampshire, says ‘Invisible Walls’ helped him to turn his life around while serving time at HMP Winchester. After experiencing childhood neglect and pursuing a life of crime, Adam embraced fatherhood with confidence, witnessing the success of his two sons. His story is one of hundreds of how the programme is helping to end the cycle of intergenerational crime and reoffending amongst fathers in prison.
Since ‘Invisible Walls’ opened in 2011, 146 ‘Time for You and Your Child’ parenting courses have been delivered to 971 men and 76 workshops to 459 men. Over 38,600 friends and families and over 8,600 children have been welcomed through the prison’s visitor’s centre and the play area.
Marking the achievements of the programme, key speakers at the event included Steve Brine (MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford), Jim Bourke (Governor of HMP Winchester) and Kerry Longhorn (Spurgeons Service Lead). Some of the fathers spoke from their personal experiences.
In 2012 the Invisible Walls team met Adam, who after suffering neglect and abuse in his childhood, came with a history of multiple and repeated offending stemming from his teenage years. Becoming a father at the early age of fourteen amidst an abusive relationship of which he was the victim, he subsequently fathered two more children from a separate relationship.
Following his time with the programme, Adam went on to provide a stable home environment to his vulnerable sons, and says, “I became a voice for them and was supported by Spurgeons, and my probation officer to follow the right route. Children’s services were also a support and I worked with professionals, while offering my two sons a stable base in my studio flat. They responded to my efforts at being their dad and showed me that children can be resilient. They committed to life with me and school and when I attended their Child Protection conference, I was astonished that the professionals around the table treated me as a valued voice and a positive option for my children.”
Kerry Longhorn says, “This 10-year milestone and legacy of ‘Invisible Walls’ has only been made possible through on-going external funding and the incredible dedication of all of our staff and volunteers. It is the only programme of its kind to receive long-term grant funding and the results are testament to the importance of extended support for fathers in prison and their families.”
In 2019 the programme was awarded more than £450,000 by The National Lottery Community Fund to continue its work for an additional 3 years, following previous support given by the fund in 2016-19.
In 2017, the Winchester based service won praise from Lord Michael Farmer who was commissioned to chair an Independent Ministry of Justice Review. He expressed HMP Winchester as “a centre of excellence” in engaging the local community in rehabilitation work and highlighted Invisible Walls as a “beacon of good practice”. This review stressed the importance of strengthening prisoners’ family ties in the prevention of reoffending and intergenerational crime, referencing a landmark study that showed 63% of prisoners sons went on to offend themselves. It also states the odds of reoffending are 43% lower for a prisoner who receives visits from a family member, describing relationships as ‘fundamental’ if a person is to change.