East Region Prison Visitor Centres is a collaboration between the Society of St. Vincent De Paul and the Dublin Quakers (Society of Friends). With funding and support from the Irish Prison Service, designated centres were first provided in 1999. These centres provide a basic hospitality service in Cloverhill Remand Prison, Mountjoy Prison, Dochas Centre and most recently (2016) Wheatfield Prison.
Prison Visitor Centres provide free tea, coffee and snack bar to visitors before and after their visit.
They provide fully equipped play areas which are staffed by qualified childcare workers and children can avail of play and arts and crafts activities before and after their visit.
Visitation centres offer several services to all those affected by the imprisonment of a loved one, these services include;
We aim to provide an essential, safe, pleasant, caring and supportive environment to each and every visitor prior to and after their prison visit. There are 15 staff, (7 full-time and 8 part-time) working alongside a number of volunteers.
The overall direction of the centres is managed by the Prison Visitor Centres Management Committee and members include representatives from SVP, the Society of Friends and the Irish Prison Service.
SVP East Region Prison Visitor Centres are of great benefit to families visiting loved ones in prison. We play a crucial role in maintaining the bond between the child/family and the person imprisoned. We do this by providing facilities and compassionate support to children and their families who need to help them cope with having a loved one in prison.
Prior to the establishment of SVP East Region Prison Visitor Centres, provision was minimal. The absence of an adequate place for visitors to go before and after their prison visit added greatly to the emotional distress of having to visit a loved one in prison.
The number of people using our services is significant. The average number of visitors per month is reaching 4,000.
Family members of those imprisoned are often referred to as "hidden victims" of the criminal justice system who are neither acknowledged nor given a platform to be heard. These hidden victims receive little personal support. They do not benefit from the social mechanisms generally available to direct crime victims, despite the fact that they too suffer the consequences of the crimes committed.
Children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system, in particular, face a host of challenges and difficulties. These can include or result in:
It is difficult to predict how a child will fare when a parent is intermittently or continually imprisoned. Research findings on these children's risk factors are mixed. However, research suggests that the strength or weakness of the parent-child bond and the quality of the child and family's support system. This plays a significant role in the child's ability to overcome challenges and succeed in life. Therefore, it is critical that the bond between the child/family and the person imprisoned is supported and encouraged.
The success of what we do depends on our staff and volunteers. All are highly committed to working with the visitors that use our service. Commitment enables friendship and friendship builds trust. This is crucial when working with vulnerable and distressed visitors. We are also very lucky to have an excellent working relationship with prison staff.
We see daily the benefits for those using our services, many of whom are often in a vulnerable state. SVP provides a listening ear and a friendly face to help people cope with the reality of having a loved one in prison. We strive to make the visiting experience a positive one and hope to create some happy memories along the way.