In many areas of the World Mothers' Union members are active in supporting people in prison, and families whose lives are impacted by imprisonment. In developing countries Mothers' Union take in food and clothing and spend time with prisoners in prayer. When prisoners have their children in prison with them, Mothers' Union do all they can to improve conditions for these children, providing blankets and fruit and vegetables to supplement the poor provision of the prison diet.
Focus on UK Prison work.
Within the UK & Ireland Mothers' Union is active in 112 prisons, including 14 women's prisons and 3 mother and baby units. Members' support is given to prisoners and their families in a variety of ways, depending on need, and all members who volunteer in prisons are encouraged to access appropriate training. All Mothers' Union volunteers are advised to access basic awareness training which follows the standards laid down by the Prison Service.
Throughout all the different types of support offered, members seek to help families sustain and develop their relationships whilst separated by imprisonment.
Groups and courses
Our parents' groups are run in prisons, helping prisoners to gain confidence in their ability before returning to their families.
I did wrong and got caught and I have had my punishment. I made mistakes with my children, but now I’ve been to this group I don’t intend to make the same mistakes with my grandchildren."Prisoner following a Mothers’ Union parenting session.
Some Mothers' Union groups provide the Alpha course, lead Bible study or facilitate faith sharing groups. In prisons where Family Days are run it is often Mothers’ Union members that provide much of the support to enable these to happen.
One of the many benefits of volunteers spending time in prison is that they can offer compassion and time for listening as well as caring for the family of prisoners. Our volunteers spend time with prisoners who have no one who visits them. In Worcester Mothers' Union members provide a coffee and chat morning specifically for these prisoners. "For the prisoners it is lovely to see someone from the outside world. Lovely for them to be like normal people. Lovely to see people just sit, relax and talk." Many Mothers' Unions send Christmas and Easter cards to prisoners, some of whom write movingly this is the only card they receive. Well over 5,000 cards are sent every year.
Working in partnership
Mothers’ Union carries out work alongside other charities and churches at a local level. We have a partnership with Time for Families, a charity that provides a relationship, parenting and budgeting course for couples. Mothers' Union also support Angel Tree projects in five prisons: this is a project that enables prisoners to send their child a Christmas gift, thereby maintaining important family links, and ensuring children do not feel unsupported or abandoned at this festive but vulnerable time. Mothers' Union always work closely too with chaplaincy teams in prisons.
Over 200,000 children a year are affected by the imprisonment of a parent. As well as the Angel Tree project support Mothers' Union prison volunteers support children through provision of play or creche facilities during prison visits. In some prisons children receive Easter eggs or Christmas chocolate. Teddies are often lovingly knitted and given to children visiting prisons - providing a comforting companion during what can be a harsh, structured, stressful visit. In Leeds members run a family day each month, they arrange for children to carry out fun activities with their dad, such as cooking.
Mothers’ Union groups in prison
Mothers’ Union groups exist inside the prison. Some groups run craft workshops and other activities such as getting the prisoners to write a book for their child. A very popular activity is to give prisoners the materials they need to make cards for special occasions or festivals, then encourage the prisoners to send the card to their loved one or family.
Bereavement groups and bereavement support for individuals is often provided by Mothers’ Union members working with the chaplain.