What We Do
We work in courts, prisons, and communities, helping families navigate the criminal justice system by offering advice, advocacy, information, and emotional support. Read about how we have helped families here.
To listen closely to families, offer them emotional and practical support and to provide a platform for their voice.
We are proud of our friendly, professional team, who bring a range of skills and experiences to their roles. Meet them here.
We listen without judgment, showing kindness and inspiring optimism.
We work with families to build an inclusive, supportive community.
We are honest with families and each other and fulfill our promises.
We share our knowledge and skills and are open to challenge.
Where We Work
Our volunteers support and advise families throughout trial and sentence in all the Sussex Courts.
We work closely with local prisons enhancing visits and family days by providing volunteers and resources. We can advocate on behalf of families trying to contact prisons.
We provide a first stop advice line, one to one support, support groups and family activities. We also run arts projects and showcase families’ artwork
Read about how we started, what we do. what we stand for
When someone goes to prison, families are plunged into a bewildering world of emotional and practical difficulty. As well as suffering the loss of their loved-one, families face social stigma, insecure housing, poverty and lack of information. Children may be subject to disrupted schooling bullying and are 2-3 times more likely to face mental health problems than their peers.
Despite this, there is no statutory support for prisoners’ families.
How it started
In 2013, we noticed a gap in services for prisoners’ families in Sussex. We spent time talking to families and other professionals about what was needed. We were very grateful to the initial support from the Worthing Lions, the Kelly Trust and The Allen Lane Foundation which allowed us to start putting our plans in action.
We started by training volunteers to work at Sussex courts. These volunteers offer emotional and practical support throughout the trial and at point of sentence.
This was a completely new service for the county and our director Rachelle worked hard to forge relationships and build up referral pathways. The service developed and we now support more than 1,000 families in court a year.
Creating a Community
We started our first support group in 2015. Meeting in cafes, we quickly discovered that families were keen to share their knowledge and expertise as well as giving each other emotional support. The support grew and we gradually branched out to outings including trips to the pier, pantomimes and afternoon teas.
In 2017, we started to support our local prisons HMP Lewes and Ford with help on family days and running the visitors’ tea bar. In 2018, we worked with our partners Spurgeons to support the running of the new visitors’ centre at HMP Lewes. As well as contributing furnishings and a brightly coloured mural by artist Guy Parker-Rees, our volunteers provided emotional advice and practical support, signposting families to our community services.
Growing Our Team
In 2020, generous grants from the National Lottery and the Tudor Trust meant that we could expand our team and employed three outreach workers and a project support officer.
Lockdown meant that we couldn’t meet families face to tace but we continued to support our families remotely through these challenging times.
With an enthusiastic and experienced team in place, we are looking forward to reaching out to even more families. We are currently reviewing our diversity policies and practices to ensure we are reaching out to all families who need support.
Volunteer Impact Report, Olivia Bruce, Joe Cowdry-Byrne and Sharna Hooper-Jones 2021
An investigation into the experience of volunteers at Sussex Prisoners’ Families
Empowering Families, Mick Schroeder, University of Brighton 2020
An evaluation of the support families receive from Sussex Prisoners’ Families
Be the Change Report, Denis Byrne 2019
A consultation with families and other stakeholders
Courage, Compassion Change, Mick Shroeder University of Brighton 2019
An exploration of how SPF have supported families and the impact of that support.
Family Outreach Service Review Social Research Hub 2018
A review of the work of our outreach team
Scoping the Needs of Prisoners’ Families in West Sussex, Dr Carlie Goldsmith, Denis Byrne 2018
An investigation into the needs of prisoners’ families in West Sussex
Sussex Prisoners’ Families Impact Assessment Social Research Hub, 2017
An investigation into the impact of Sussex Prisoners’ Families services
An Investigation into Trauma Informed Ways of Working with Prisoners’ Families Sam Hart 2015
A Winston Churchill Memorial Trust report into good practice in the United States.