Families’ Experiences in a Prison Visitors’ Centre
Prison visitors’ centres are unique spaces, typically distinct from the prisons they are connected to; they are the areas where families wait prior to entering the prison where visits take place. There is increasing recognition of the role visitors’ centres can play in supporting families affected by imprisonment. Yet (with some exceptions), there is a lack of research that sheds light on families’ experiences of being in these spaces, including the affective dimensions of them.
After providing context to the evolution and workings of prison visitors’ centres in the UK, this chapter discusses how this particular centre works and how it is experienced on a day-to-day basis by visiting families. Consideration is given to the formal support that is offered in the centre and how this can help those families who need it. Discussion then turns to how the existence of a designated space offers families the opportunity to establish their own informal support networks, as well as the complex dynamics involved in these networks and among/between different groups of families. In sharing different families’ experiences of using the centre, the diversity of both prisoners’ families and their experience of imprisonment (including prison visiting) is drawn attention to.
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