Invited to the family conference are two members of each inmates family, children in the family where applicable, and one influential member of the inmate’s home community
The purpose of the family conference is to offer families, through a structured and warm encounter, the opportunity to express their pain, fears, hopes and expectations as the inmate prepares to return to the family fold. We believe that in this process, family ties are strengthened and family members find dignity. With few opportunities ahead for the returning prisoner, the family is the best chance an individual have of seeking and receiving support as they move back into community and society.
A summary of proceedings at a family conference
What happens at a family conference?
Family meetings: Families are given time to meet in family groups. This is an opportunity for families to talk intimately about the difficulties they experience as a result of the offence, conviction and imprisonment of one of their number. There are no restrictions placed on what is said at these meetings. Facilitators remain on hand to encourage greater sharing, but do not stay with the family in a way that controls what is said or shared in families. Consistently, we have observed that families begin their meetings showing signs of reserve and alienation. As meetings proceed, it is evident that warmth, laughter and love returns to the family group.
Plenary session: After family meetings, the plenary meets and a representative from each family has an opportunity to address the group. This is an occasion for families to ‘vent’ their feelings publicly, to talk of the suffering and hardships visited on the family by an act of crime committed by one of their own members and the effect the crime has had on the family’s standing in the community. It is also an opportunity for families to publicly reaffirm their love and support for the inmate, and to face the future with greater confidence.