Having a loved one in prison can be difficult, worrying and even frightening. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed. This page guides you towards services that can help you through this difficult time. We have divided the page into problems commonly faced by families.

If you would like to talk through any of these issues you can call our First Stop Advice Line on 01273 499843  for information about local support. Fridays from 10-4 .

At other times, please call Prisoners’ Families and Friends Service on 0808 808 3444 or the Offenders’ Families Helpline on 0808 808 2003. .



(Click on one to jump to information.)


Many families don’t know whether they should tell children that a friend or relative has gone to prison. These resources and organisations will be able to help. They can also help children cope with having a family member in prison.

Telling the Children, Action for Prisoners’ Families A booklet that helps families talk to children about the imprisonment of a loved one.

Tommy’s Dad A children’s picture book which explores what happens when child’s dad is sent to prison.

Danny’s Mum A children’s picture book which explores what happens when child’s dad is sent to prison.

Finding Dad (Children’s Book APF) Book for older children.

It’s a Tough Time for Everyone A comic for older children explaining.

Children’s Centres If you have children who are five and under your local children’s centre may be able to give you advice and support in communicating with your children. For your local Children’s Centre: Children’s Centre West Sussex.

Home-Start West Sussex If you have a least one child under five, and are finding things hard to manage, you could ask Home-Start for help. Home-Start volunteers can visit you in your own home. They are all parents like yourself, and have special training before being matched with a family. Their support is free and confidential.

Schools Schools should be able to support your child through this difficult time. A teacher, learning assistant or learning mentor that your child trusts will be able to listen to your child and should be able to keep your information confidential.

Parenting Support Team West Sussex The Parenting Support Team supports parents of children and young people aged 10 to 18 years to find effective parenting solutions.

Youth Offending Support Team West Sussex– Supports parents with children aged 10-18 whose children have offended or at risk of offending.

Your Space  Advice, information and things to do for young people in West Sussex.


Visiting a prison can be a bewildering process. Gather as much information as you can beforehand to make your visit easier. Most male prisoners in Sussex will be sent to HMP Lewes and most women will be sent to HMP Bronzefield though this not always the case.

HMP Lewes Information about visiting.  Visiting times at HMP Lewes will be from 2-4 every day except Friday when they will be from 9:30-11.

HMP Bronzefield Booking lines are now closed and visits, including reception visits, must be booked via the prisoner.

Other Prisons Information about all prisons can be found on the Ministry of Justice Website.

Visitors’ Centres Many prisons around the country have visitors’ centres where you can wait and get useful information and support. It is worth phoning ahead to visitors’ centres to find out what to expect on a visit. Some will produce their own literature. You can find out more information on the Inside Information website. Or from the Ministry of Justice website.

Prisoner Location Service If you are not sure which prison your loved one has been sent to you can contact the Prisoner Location Service. PO Box 2152, Birmingham, B15 1SD Fax: 0121 626 3474. Email link here

Sent to prison A booklet which explains some of the issues and concerns around visiting a prison.

Email a Prisoner This service allows families to indirectly email prisoners at some prisons.


Coping with the loss of a family member can be traumatic and you may have to adapt to being a ‘lone’ parent. These organisations may be able to help.

Living with Separation Booklet from Action for Prisoners’ Families. Free for families. Tel: 0208 812 3600

Affect A support group for family members affected by serious crime. Tel: 01329 832254

Prisoners’ Friends and Families Service PFFS provide a national helpline and a telephone befriending service and a series of useful factsheets. Tel: 0808 808 3444

Offenders’ Families Helpline Free and confidential helpline and website. Tel: 0808 808 2003

Prison Chat UK An online chat forum for those affected by having a loved-one in prison.

Family Lives Helpline and website for anyone caring for children. Tel: 0808 800 2222


Having someone sent to prison can cause severe financial problems due to loss of earnings, change in benefits and the cost of visiting prison or sending money in to the prisoner. It is easy for debts to accumulate.

Help with cost of visits Some financial help may be available for the cost of visiting prison.

Job Centre Plus (Benefits) Tel: 0800 0 55 66 88

Direct Gov Lots of financial advice as well as information about health and schools.

National Debtline Tel: 0808 808 4000

Citizens’ Advice Bureau Assisted Prison Visits Financial support for people visiting loved-ones in prison.

UNLOCK Can provide advice for families on bank accounts, insurance and employment.

West Sussex Credit Union Credit Unions provide low cost ways of saving and borrowing money.

West Sussex Affordable Warmth Provides a range of guidance on how to reduce energy bills, switch energy suppliers, financial support, grants available for insulation/heating repair or replacement and information on the local help available.


You may find people in your community are being hostile towards you because of the crime committed by your family member. You may also find yourself unfairly represented in the press. You have a right to be safe and free from intimidation.

Mediation Service Resolves disputes between neighbours without use of solicitors or courts. Independent, confidential, impartial and free. Tel: 01273 700812

Sussex Police For emergency calls dial 999. For non-emergency calls dial 101. Tel: 0845 6070999

Independent Press Standards Organisation

Victim Support Offers free and confidential advice to victims of crime. Tel: 0845 3030900

Dealing with the media fact sheet This briefing from Action for Prisoners’ Families produces a free briefing sheet which helps families deal with the media.


You may have concerns about the health or safety of a prisoner or worries about the way they are being treated.

Prison Governor Write to the prison governor. They should reply within 30 days. Details can be found on the prison service website.

Duty Governor If you have immediate concerns about a prisoner, call the prison and ask to speak to the duty governor or the chaplain.

Chaplaincy The prison chaplain can check on a prisoner if there are concerns about his or her wellbeing. They can also provide reassurance for the family and pass on concerns or messages.

Family Support Worker Some prisons employ family support workers specifically to work with families and prisoners. They may be based in the visitors’ centre or in the prison itself.

Prison Reform Trust Gives free and confidential advice to prisoners and their families. Tel: 020 7251 5070, 0808 808 0060 (freephone for prisoners)


When someone is sent to prison you may need help paying the mortgage or rent or you may even need to be re-housed.

Shelter Helpline and web information for offenders. Tel: 0808 800 4444

Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CRB) An advice leaflet on prisoners and housing.

West Sussex Council Housing The Council website provides information and advice about housing in the area.

West Sussex Affordable Warmth Provides a range of guidance on how to reduce energy bills, switch energy suppliers, financial support, grants available for insulation/heating repair or replacement and information on the local help available.


Are you worried about another family member using substances? Or about drugs paraphernalia left behind after arrest? Are you under pressure to bring drugs into the prison?

Silent Voices Support for family members affected by drug and alcohol misuse.

RUOK If you have concerns about your child’s use of alcohol or would like advice on how to talk to your teenager about alcohol and drugs please contact RUOK. Tel: 01273 293966

FRANK A website and helpline offering advice, information and support to anyone concerned about substance misuse, including drug misusers, their families, friends and carers. Tel: 0800 77 66 00

Adfam An umbrella organisation which gives information to families of substance misusers.

Change, Grow, Live (CGL) A drug and alcohol wellbeing service offering support and advice for adults over 25 and their families, carers and friendship networks, who are affected by the use of alcohol and / or drugs (substances). The organisation works all over West Sussex offering one to one support, advice drop-ins, medical support, counselling and many other useful services. Telephone: 0300 303 8677 or Email


Worth Services WORTH Services is an Independent Domestic (IDVA) Service supporting people affected by domestic abuse in West Sussex.

Rape Crisis Surrey and Sussex Provides support and advocacy and a Freephone national helpline: 0808 802 9999 (open daily 12 – 2:30 and 19 – 21:30)

Safe in Sussex A domestic abuse charity helping those in Sussex.


For physical and mental health problems please see your GP in the first instance.

Mental HealthCoastal West Sussex Mind
 charity offer mental health support and advice for families in Shoreham, Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Midhurst and Chichester.

Time To Talk 
A talking therapies service offering support with a range of issues, including depression, OCD, bereavement and reaction to loss.

Healthwatch West Sussex  Contact Healthwatch If you need to speak to someone about your personal experience or have feedback about health and social care. They will be able to help and they will gather your feedback.

Sexual Health Services 
Free advice and walk-in clinics.

Carers Support West Sussex: Have you been caring for a family member with mental health issues, learning difficulties, a drug or alcohol problem, dementia or some one with a physical disability? Then contact your local carers centre which offers a wide range of support and advice. Helpline: 03000288888 and local support groups.

West Sussex Wellbeing: Offers a range of help about being healthy, getting active, smoking ect…

Mental Health Information & Advice Drop:

In A friendly, non-judgmental drop in where you can access a range of mental health support, information and advice run by Pathfinder West Sussex, an alliance of organisations working together to enable people with mental health support needs, and their carers, to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

The Yews, 55 Boltro Rd, Haywards Heath RH16 1BJ Every Monday 2pm- 4pm (Downstairs in the Broadway Lounge) West Green Youth and Community Centre, West Green Drive, Crawley, RH11 7EL Every Tuesday 11am- 1pm (Downstairs)

East Grinstead Library, 32-40 West St, East Grinstead RH19 4SR Fridays 2pm – 4pm (Upstairs in the Meeting Room) 27th Oct, 3rd Nov, 10th Nov, 24th Nov, 8th Dec, 22nd Dec & 29th Dec

Informal Family Care West Sussex

Informal care is when a relative has chosen to take care of the child and the arrangement was not made by the Local Authority. Family Carers can be grandparents, aunts and uncles and adult siblings who are providing a home and full time care for a child or young person.

Informal Family Carers offers advice, support and information around relevant issues to carers such as benefits, parental responsibility, practical issues, contact and behaviour challenges.

Groups and courses, specifically for Family Carers, are run between 4-8 weeks at locations across West Sussex. Courses can focus on topics such as attachment and trauma, the teenage brain or anger management. We also have monthly drop-ins across the county, providing opportunities to meet other family carers. Have a chat and talk through any concerns. For more information call 03302225580.


Resettlement advice for people with criminal records. Tel: 0300 123 1999

Sussex Pathways
 operates a mentoring support service for offenders being released back into the community, primarily from HMP Lewes & HMP Ford Open but also HMP Bronzefield & HMP Highdown.

 Community Office: 
01273 468160
; email here

Rethink Mental Illness: a useful website which gives detailed information about how to prepare for the release of a family member in prison and discusses any issues around prison and mental health. Tel: 0300 5000 927

Action for Prisoners Families: a booklet with information on how to prepare for a family members release from prison.

Prison Office
 HMP Lewes 1 Brighton Road, Lewes BN7 1EA. Tel: 
01273 785335
; email here

Support for women at every stage of the criminal justice. Tel: 01273 698 036 + option 3; email here


Ministry of Justice Sentence Explanation 
Government website explaining basic sentence types.

Youth Sentences Explained Offenders’ families’ helpline factsheet on youth sentencing


East Sussex Courts 
Addresses and phone numbers of Brighton and East Sussex Courts, along with maps

West Sussex Courts 
Addresses and phone numbers of West Sussex Courts, along with maps

Offenders’ Families Helpline 
Some useful factsheets about what to expect when visiting court.


To contact Sam or Denis at Sussex Prisoners’ Families: Email us here

Registered office: 39-41 Surrey St, Brighton BN1 3PB 01273 499843

Sussex Children and Families of Prisoners is a Community Interest Company Limited by Guarantee. Company number 8631063.