‘My relationship with all my kids has got better, 100%’: How Spurgeons are connecting families affected by imprisonment
Kennedy is an inmate at HMP Winchester, and is in the final weeks of a three year jail term. He shared how Spurgeons’ work with him has helped improve his relationship with his children, and turn his life around.
Children affected by imprisonment
Spurgeons works to improve the lives of families affected by imprisoned fathers. Recent statistics suggest there are now over 312,000 children affected by parental imprisonment.
Research highlights that these children are three times more likely to suffer with poor mental health and more likely to engage in anti-social and criminal behaviour than their peers. They are also at greater risk of poverty, ill health and experiencing housing issues. It has been suggested that 66% of boys with a father in prison will go on to offend.
Therefore, Spurgeons’ work with the families of prisoners is vital in helping support the family through the imprisonment, and also benefits their well-being going forward.
Kennedy has five children and a stepdaughter. When he first entered prison to start his sentence, his children struggled. ‘It had a massive impact,’ he says. ‘My older two were at an age where they understand more. They hear things and they know what I’m in prison for. It caused a lot of drama at first. It was “you’ve gone to jail again, we don’t want anything to do with you. You’ve put drugs over us.’
He tried to smooth things over for around 18 months before their relationship improved- this time using insights and understanding via Spurgeons’ courses, which helped him relate to his kids.
Parenting from inside
Spurgeons recognises that when a family member goes to prison, the family are handed their own ‘hidden sentence’. The family left behind may find themselves judged and ostracised by their community, and facing financial hardship.
As well as offering ‘Hidden Sentence’ training for professionals to understand the damage that can be done, Spurgeons also works with families, both facilitating better relationships with the incarcerated family member, and helping support the family left behind. Kennedy and his family have benefitted from Spurgeons’ intervention.
‘You can be a dad in prison,’ he says. ‘Obviously it’s difficult. Personally I’ve had situations- I had an argument a few months ago with my daughter on the phone. I told her off, and she didn’t like it. She put the phone down on me. I spoke to Lucy from Spurgeons and she helped me and prompted me in the right direction, with an approach to fix things.’
Visiting the prison can also be an intimidating experience, particularly for children. ‘The older kids don’t like the setting and my boy has autism, so he doesn’t like the doors being locked, the keys or the noise,’ explains Kennedy.
Spurgeons are on-hand at the visitor’s centre to support the families entering the prison, and help facilitate family days.
Supporting fractured families
Kennedy, like many prison dads, is in constant contact with his family.
His family are able to write back, as well as email him and have occasional video calls. The prison family days offer the chance for the family to spend time in a more natural setting, with dads able to take part in activities with their kids.
‘From working with Spurgeons, my relationship with all my kids has got better, 100%,’ Kennedy says.
Kennedy’s partner has been a single parent during his jail term, looking after their six children alone. ‘She is pretty stressed most of the time,’ he says. ‘But, Spurgeons have supported her. Lucy rings her. I’m doing Behind the Wall/ Beyond the Gate (release settlement programme) with Lucy and my partner is involved in that too. All the training has changed the way I think and take a think before I speak approach.’
Changing lives for the better
Kennedy has only 3 weeks left before his release and while he says he is nervous and anxious, he has the continued support of Spurgeons.
‘I’ve been in 7 prisons before coming to this one and Spurgeons have been a big eye-opener and they’ve changed a lot of things for me,’ he says. ‘I had Spurgeons to talk to and they encourage me to do better, which has changed my life. To have that in other prisons as well would be amazing.’