A charity that represents inmates’ families has hit back at criticism of a children’s festive party held at Perth Prison.
Families Outside, a Scottish organisation that works to support families affected by imprisonment, said it was “extremely disappointed” with Scottish Conservative MSP Alexander Stewart’s condemnation of family activities run in HMP Perth over the Christmas period.
After details of the children’s party, one of a series of events at the jail costing a total of £1200, were revealed by the Scottish Prison Service Mr Stewart, who is one of the representatives for the Mid Scotland and Fife constituency, slammed the authorities and claimed they gave the impression of a “soft touch” justice system in the country.
However, Nancy Loucks, chief executive of Families Outside, has hit back at his comments, claiming society benefits from holding such parties.
She said: “We are extremely pleased that the Scottish Prison Service understand the benefits of family contact and are confident that a small investment – like that seen in HMP Perth – will have huge, long-term economic and societal benefits for Scotland as a whole.
“Prisoners who maintain contact with their families are up to six times less likely to re-offend, but there are also huge benefits for the families and children. We all want to prevent the next victim, and this is a positive and inexpensive way of preventing future problems.
“Children of prisoners have done nothing wrong, and we need to recognise their rights to support for the trauma of separation from a parent through imprisonment.”
She continued: “Scottish Government figures estimate that 20,000 children each year in Scotland have a parent in prison – more than are affected by divorce.
“Research shows that these children are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems and are three times more likely to engage in anti-social or offending behaviour than children without imprisoned parents.”
Mr Stewart had said he fully appreciated that prisoners need to engage with Christmas celebrations, but questioned “at what cost.”
He had said: “I understand that there needs to be a happy medium between crime and punishment but it is important that this does not send out the wrong message to victims of crime.”