Australian Red Cross runs a visitor support program in a Victorian men’s prison with the aim to create safe and welcoming spaces for children to visit and spend time with their incarcerated parent. Drawing on the evidence of this program, and others, this presentation will explore the well-known links between regular family visits in prisons and the positive impact these have on incarcerated parents, the visitors themselves, and more specifically the children. The presentation will also unpack what it means to take a child-focussed approach and how this influences the program's impact.
The discussion will highlight that this is not new information, but rather, a program example of long-established evidence that visitor support programs, like this one, are highly effective. Given this, the presentation will challenge and ask the critical question; why aren’t visitor support programs a mandatory commitment that all prisons make? Why aren’t all visitors, especially children, afforded the same support to visit and maintain that vital connection for their loved one who is incarcerated?

The evaluation findings of the Australian Red Cross Child and Family Engagement Program presents the voice of children, family and the men who are incarcerated themselves driving a call for action to ensure that all prisons do more to support child and family visiting as a sound and cost effective strategy to support people who are in prison to reconnect with their family members post release and reduce recidivism overall.

Ashleigh Purdy
Australian Red Cross
Justice Program Officer

Biography: Ashleigh Purdy has been the Red Cross Justice Program Office in Victoria since 2015. In this role Ashleigh manages several justice programs that focus on supporting the friends and families of people impacted by the justice system, as well as a sports program in the youth justice space and also teaches cooking skills and shares nutrition knowledge with incarcerated men and women to better prepare them for reintegration. Prior to moving to Australia, Ashleigh worked for the New Zealand Department of Corrections facilitating rehabilitation programs in prison and the community.

Maureen Dawson-Smith
Australian Red Cross
State Manager, VIC Community Programs -

Biography: -

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