Family bus scheme launched at Polmont youth prison
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.
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."
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.
* Data for 2014 runs from 1 January to 9 December