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First broadcast:
Monday 28 November 2011

When a man goes to prison, there is usually a woman - wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, daughter - left behind whose life is changed for ever, and who may have to confront challenges she's completely unprepared for. This programme is about a group of women, whose paths would never normally cross, who have come together to support each other while their men are inside - and afterwards.

String of Pearls is an informal support group set up to raise awareness of the impact of imprisonment on families. The participants come together to share first-hand experience of the isolation and anxiety that affects prisoners' families; the group is often the only place they feel confident enough to talk about their situation they find themselves in: their distress, their fears for their families and hopes for the future. For some, it is the only place they ever actually feel able to talk about the fact that they have a husband, partner or family member in prison. They talk about the shock of suddenly having to run a family on their own, cope with telling the truth to children and other family members, or hiding it from them, learn how the prison system works when they've never encountered it before and never expected to, and the ways in which their lives and relationships have changed irrevocably.

String of Pearls offers much-needed support to families at a very vulnerable time, and it also provides training for professional and support agency staff in how to deal with these families. Some of the women involved in this programme have trained, and are training others, to be mentors, spreading the network across the country.

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    The String of Pearls Project is a group of people - some of whom have,
    or have had, a family member in prison - who use the arts to convey how a prison sentence affects the rest of the family. Their support groups operate for families based in the South West, and they offer training to professionals around the country.

    Phone: 07989 922 415. Email info@stringofpearlsproject.com


    Offenders' Families Helpline provides information and support to anyone supporting an offender through their contact with the Criminal Justice System. The helpline is open Monday-Friday 9.00am-8.00pm and Saturdays
    and Sundays 10.00am-3.00pm. They can provide information, signposting to
    services and basic emotional support across all areas of the Criminal
    Justice System including arrest, financial support, going to court,
    visiting a prison and what to tell the children.

    Freephone: 0808 808 2003. Email: info@offendersfamilieshelpline.org


    Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group (POPS) aims to provide
    a variety of services to support anyone who has a link with someone in
    prison, prisoners and other agencies. POPS provides assistance to these groups for the purpose of enabling families to cope with the stress of arrest, imprisonment and release.

    [T] 0161 702 1000 e-mail mail@partnersofprisoners.co.uk

    POPS currently deliver the national Offenders’ Families Helpline (see above), a free and confidential service for families who require information and support whilst supporting a relative through contact with the Criminal Justice System.

    Action for Prisoners' Families (APF) works for the benefit of prisoners'
    and offenders' families by representing the views of families and those who work with them and by promoting effective work with families. They do this by providing advice, information and training to their members,providing their members with opportunities to network, to share experiences, concerns and successes and by listening to prisoners'
    families and promoting, developing and supporting services and resources
    that they need or would like.

    Phone: 020 8812 3600


    Nacro, the crime reduction charity, runs projects throughout England and
    Wales to steer people away from crime; to manage those who do commit
    crime, to help them cope without returning to crime; and to resettle
    prisoners, helping them find a place to live, to give them the support
    they need to keep their homes and help them to cope with life back in
    the community. Nacro's helpline offers information, advice and support to prisoners, ex-offenders, and those involved with them. You can
    contact the helpline on 0800 0181 259 (prisoners only) or 020 7840 6464.

    www.nacro.org.uk <http://www.nacro.org.uk/>

    Families Outside works solely to support the families of people involved in the criminal justice system in Scotland. They work to mitigate the effects of imprisonment on children and families - and consequently to reduce the likelihood of reoffending - through support and information for families and for the people who work with them.

    Support and Information for Prisoners' Families freephone: 0500 83 93 83; email support@familiesoutside.org.uk; text 'famout' followed by your
    message to 60777.


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