Tayside and Central Scotland

Family bus scheme launched at Polmont youth prison

Family Bus Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Church leaders hope the bus will make it easier for children to visit incarcerated family members

A new "family bus" to encourage children to visit family and friends behind bars at Polmont has been launched by the Church of Scotland.

The number of children visiting the young offenders institution near Falkirk has fallen by 20% since 2012.

Statistics suggest prisoners who are able to maintain good family bonds are far less likely to reoffend.

The interior and exterior of the renovated double-decker bus was designed by Polmont inmates.

The Church of Scotland is lead partner in the National Prison Visitor Centres Steering Group, and their support workers at Polmont drove forward the bus project.

The 16-year-old former rental vehicle has been customised to include a kitchen, toilet and baby changing area, with a wide-screen television and internet access for relatives.

Blackpool Design Company refurbished the bus and donated bean bags and games for visiting children.

'Emotional upset'

Experts claim that prisoners who maintain their family bonds while incarcerated are almost six times less likely to re-offend.

Marie Cairns. manager of the family visitor centre at HMP Polmont, said visiting a relative in prison could be a frightening experience for children in particular.

She said: "The aim of the family hub and bus is to support families as they support their young family member in Polmont.

"We see first-hand the emotional upset which is caused to parents and family members when a young person is incarcerated.

"Families have to travel from all over Scotland to visit. They are often using public transport and bringing young children.

"We try and offer a warm welcome and provide a hand of friendship which will hopefully make their visit a little less stressful."

Juvenile visitors

The number of young people aged 17 and under who visit prisons in Scotland has remained steady over the past three years, at about 50,000 visitors per year.

However, the number of juveniles visiting HMP Polmont has decreased by 20%, from 4,351 in 2012 to 3,481 in 2014.

2012 2013 2014*
Establishment Adult Juvenile Adult Juvenile Adult Juvenile
Aberdeen 12050 2073 10532 1778 237 34
Barlinnie 65581 10596 59667 9810 59559 10226
Cornton Vale 7588 1196 6141 1306 6915 1652
Dumfries 6211 1200 5332 991 5814 917
Edinburgh 37495 6455 39969 7111 37186 6799
Glenochil 23754 3811 24094 3598 23209 3426
Grampian - - - - 9927 1681
Greenock 10105 2147 10303 1784 9209 1527
Inverness 6618 873 6668 1214 5959 1099
Low Moss 31959 7418 41158 9552 40360 8855
Open Estate 2285 479 1670 353 1632 278
Perth 22379 4834 23823 4573 24113 5965
Peterhead 2847 483 2886 516 - -
Polmont 36697 4351 30358 3698 30652 3481
Shotts 17870 4134 19510 4366 18943 4288

* Data for 2014 runs from 1 January to 9 December

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