The families and friends of defendants facing time in prison will be given help through the court process with the help of a strengthened project.
Those visiting Durham Crown Court will benefit from the work, which has been given a funding boost by Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ron Hogg,
For those families who are unfamiliar with the judicial system or who are unprepared this can be a distressing time.Jane Leak, Nepacs support at courts co-ordinator
The Nepacs project, which started at Teesside Combined Courts in 2013, provides support to families with a loved one facing custody.
Nepacs has received £20,204 funding from Mr Hogg – £15,624 to enable Nepacs staff and volunteers to develop the project at Durham, and a further £4,580 towards the provision of visits for children and families of prisoners.
Support is offered to families attending court by a team of volunteers, under the leadership of Jane Leak, the Nepacs support at courts co-ordinator.
The volunteers are at court and on the phone, and also work with the charity’s prison visitor centre teams, to help reduce the worries and anxiety they may have when they visit a prison.
In its first year, 93 individuals received long-term support.
The project volunteers work with Nepacs’ prison visitor centre teams and family support workers to help reduce families and friends’ worries about visiting. Mr Hogg said: “Nepacs staff and volunteers provide an important service to families and individuals in an unfamiliar and formal setting, which can be very daunting at such a difficult time.”
Jane added: “Every year thousands of families experience court proceedings and the impact of a custodial sentence, despite never having being involved in or committed a crime.
“From the moment of arrest and throughout the court process, families are at risk of social isolation and stigma, which can affect their emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing.
“For those families who are unfamiliar with the judicial system or who are unprepared, this can be a distressing time.”