European states should ensure that prisons recognise the strain placed on prisoners and their families by imprisonment and release, and provide support as appropriate. In particular, prisons should:

  • aim to be aware of a prisoner’s family and social networks, and their rehabilitative potential, from the beginning of the prisoner’s sentence
  • when receiving a new prisoner (either at the start of a sentence or after a transfer), immediately and directly inform the prisoner’s family about how they can stay in contact, what the regulations are regarding visits, and who to contact with questions or worries
  • facilitate communication between prisoners and their families about the problems that have been caused by their imprisonment and the worries that arise from the prospect of their release
  •  involve prisoners and their families in the prisoner’s release planning well before the release date
  • link needs identified by the prisoner and their family to courses, counselling or other interventions that will assist their reintegration
  • recognise the potential that families have to reinforce and build on the prison’s own work
  • allow prisoners home on conditional release before the end of their sentence so as to acclimatise them to life outside prison gradually.

Member states should facilitate continued contact between prisoners and their families during the period of a prisoner’s incarceration. In particular, they should:

  • collect and compile information on how far prisoners are kept from their families, aiming to reduce this distance wherever possible
  • remove restrictions on prisoners’ communication with their families, including those that arise from the cost of such communication being beyond prisoners’ means
  • recognise that the rights of prisoners’ children to parental contact are independent from judgements about whether the prisoner has a right to see their children

  • make it easier for prisoners to use appropriately controlled and restricted internet access to communicate with members of their family and keep abreast of developments in the outside world
  • collect feedback from families and prisoners about the quality of prison visits and, as far as possible, act on this feedback to mitigate the stresses of visits
  • expand the availability of longer visits, conjugal visits and conditional release for family contact
  • reduce the isolation of foreign prisoners whose families are unable to visit them in person by making available additional opportunities for contact by other means (for example by allowing them to make more phone calls).
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