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.