"I have enjoyed talking regularly to my penpal who has nothing to do with the prison, this has left me feeling like a human and not just another number. It has been an amazing support to me through some tough times, and I believe that my sentence would have been a lot harder without having my penpals …. Please keep running this service for those in need, and finally once again a massive thank you and hopefully I won’t need your services again in the future as your service has let me grow and change for the better"
Prison is a lonely and isolating place. 52% of prisoners report having at least one mental health condition. We know that prolonged loneliness can exacerbate poor mental health, and also that living with mental health issues can be a lonely experience. Self-inflicted deaths are over six times more likely in prison than in the general population, and approximately 30% of prisoners who take their own lives had no family contact prior to their deaths.
31% of people in prison report having no family or friends visiting them, leading to extremely lonely sentences.
We are seeing an increasingly ageing prison population, with over 60s the fastest growing age group. 44% of men in prison over the age of 50 have been convicted of sex offences, which are more likely to result in disconnection from family and friends.
Loneliness not only has a negative effect on prisoners’ mental health and wellbeing: it also significantly increases their likelihood of committing further crime in the future. 44% of people are reconvicted within a year of being released from prison, and people are more likely to reoffend if they did not have visits from friends and family while inside: 47% of those who had visitors went on to reoffend, whereas the rate is much higher at 68% for those who did not have visitors.
Our work helps people in prison consider more deeply the experiences that led them to offending, as well as the futures they would like to embrace on release:
" Having someone to forget about prison life it made my mental health better, asking me what my plans are after my release... made me think I can do better than coming to jail, I should be out there having my freedom, living in my own place being with my family, my kids, having a 9 to 5 job, be able to go anywhere I want in the world and think about what I can be and who I can be... to forget about the past and think about the future that I can have and to make sure I keep on the right path and not ever go back on the wrong path "