Coloured hands around a large brown hand

About Choices Consultancy Service

Who we are

Choices Consultancy Service (Choices) is a not-for-profit voluntary run organisation that assists prisoners, their children and families through difficulties that may be incurred during their involvement in the criminal justice system. Choices have been in operation since October 2008. Choices delivers family services in three South West Prisons: HMP Dartmoor, HMP Channings Wood and HMP Exeter.

Aims

Choices aim to provide service users with the tools needed to promote positive change by:

  • Conducting needs analysis and assessments.
  • Enhancing an understanding of the criminal justice procedures.
  • Offering emotional support.
  • Delivering practical support.
  • Signposting to relevant agencies.
  • Investigating coping strategies.
  • Suicide/self harm prevention.
  • Supporting prisoners and their families in the resettlement process.
  • Helping to prepare for release.
  • Advising on reintegration back into the family/community.
  • Actively protecting children’s welfare.
  • Liaising between families, the criminal justice system and other organisations.
  • Being a voice for families via advocacy work.

Objectives

  • To ensure that the children, their carers, and families of prisoners have access to appropriate advice, care and support relevant to their needs.
  • To facilitate opportunities for positive contact between prisoners and their families from the courts to release.
  • To support families and prisoners in the resettlement process.
  • To respond to the needs of prisoners/family members at risk of suicide and self-harm.
  • To support the development of restorative justice and promote community involvement in supporting people affected by imprisonment.
Baby playing with wooden blocks

Our Mission Statement

“To support and advise prisoners and their families to promote and enable positive change.”

Choices Support

Do you need support at this difficult time?

Choice Consultancy Service is a not-for-profit voluntary run organisation that assists prisoners and their families through difficulties that may be incurred during their involvement in the criminal justice system. Choices are based at HMP Exeter, HMP Dartmoor and HMP Channings Wood.

Choices offer a FREE monthly support group with trained staff who can support you emotionally through this difficult time. If you are interested in attending, please email us for further details.

Choices are also able to signpost you to relevant agencies for extra support.

Why we are here

Choices aim to support prisoners and their families

It has long been acknowledged that prisoners who have maintained family ties are far less likely to re-offend. Children and families can play a significant role in supporting a prisoner to make and sustain changes which reduce re-offending (Home Office, NOMS Reducing Re-offending Pathway). For many families, relationships are put to the test when a member goes to prison. Support for these families is sparse. Family members may not feel that they can discuss their feelings and fears with people they know for fear of recriminations. Choices aim to support prisoners and their families through these times with the aim of maintaining family ties where possible. However, maintaining these ties may not always be deemed appropriate. Choices also offer support to prisoners and families when they are separating.

Wooden chairs in a circle

Membership Bodies we belong to:

Action for Prisoners Families and Family Lives

They work across sectors – education, health, social care, criminal justice, parenting, etc. to reduce the negative impact of imprisonment.

Visit their website

CLINKS

Exists to strengthen and develop the partnerships between voluntary and community-based organisations and the Prison and Probation Services in England and Wales.

Visit their website

Case Studies

Case Study 1

Mr D was a prolific offender who had been in and out of prison for many years. When Mr D was not in prison he resided in rented accommodation run by a local housing association. When Mr D came into HMP Exeter Mr Ds mother contacted a Choices family support worker and stated that her son was going to lose his flat as he could not pay the rent whilst in prison. She also stated that someone had broken in and stolen his belongings and the flat was now insecure.

The family support worker contacted the housing association and requested that the flat be made secure and that Mr D could hold onto the flat whilst in prison. After a few phone calls Mr Ds flat was secured and he was informed that his flat would be available for his return. Mr Ds mother was extremely relieved as the flat was near to where she lived so she could still offer him daily support upon his release and relieved that he would not become homeless. 

Broken window

Case Study 2

“Having a parent or close relative in prison can hugely impact on the behaviour of children. I have first hand experience of this as my partner, my daughter’s dad, was serving a prison sentence. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to take my daughter to visit, so visited first on my own.

My first visit last year was nothing like I expected, Choice’s staff and volunteers in the Visitor Centre were so friendly and put my mind instantly at rest. Obviously I was nervous about entering a prison for the first time, but in the Visiting hall there was a lovely refreshment area where you could buy hot/cold snacks and drinks. I could see there was a play area and children were taking toys and games to play with their dads. I wished I had bought our daughter and after discussing with my partner we agreed I would bring her on my next visit.

We didn’t look back again my daughter loved visiting her dad, and seeing her smile and play with other children helped us all as a family unit. I wished I had visited sooner, my daughter was much happier both at school and at home once she had seen her dad. I can’t thank Choice’s staff and volunteers enough for the good work they do. My partner is now out of prison and we are living together happily, something I don’t think would have happened, had Choice’s not been there when we needed them… THANK YOU ”

Child hiding her eyes with hand

Case Study 3

After attending a few meetings with both Mr Z and his mother, Choices staff began to recognise the need for on-going support.

As Mr Z had been given a sentence which was under 12 months he had not been eligible to enrol on any courses or partake in any work inside the prison. This had left both parties worried about his release. Choices referred Mr Z to an internal organisation that helps prisoners get back into work. This organisation also supported Mr Z with his mental wellbeing. The progress made inside the prison has continued upon his release.

Mr Z’s mother was elderly and had never been in this type of situation before. She required a lot of support from our organisation, from the practicalities of visiting to the emotional stress of having a son in prison. Mrs Z took comfort in being able to talk through with us her sons’ issues and her concerns for him upon release. The visitors centre is an integral part of our organisation. It is a place where visitors can ask questions, have any of their fears allayed or just have someone listen to their problems. The Choices team were able to help them both throughout their time with the prison. Mrs Z now feels a lot happier about her sons release knowing there will be some extra support for them both.

Choices partnership working enables us to refer prisoners and their families to specific organisations that can help with particular issues. More often than not prisoners and their families are not aware of the organisations which can help them. Particularly as prisoners do not have access to information because of their situation. Because many families and prisoners are unaware of all the services on offer Choices are able to liaise with different organisations and point them in the right direction to get the relevant help. This is where Choices comes into its own as we can assist families and help them to make the links with other organisations which can help them to make positive changes in their lives.