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Award winning mediator, Stuart Hanson, helps prisons start family mediation.

Nov 15, 2018 | News

On 15 October 2018 Stuart Hanson was taken to Wealstun Prison in West Yorkshire. He was accompanied by three family mediators, Lesley Dudleston, David Leckie and Sholem Dov Salzman. All four have been in previously, but this time they are looking at a minimum of five years. They are all linked to Direct Mediation Service which has a Legal Aid contract for providing family mediation.

The start of this article can be read in two ways. The initial thought is “What have these mediators done to result in being sent to prison?”. However, the story behind the headline is much more interesting in that these mediators are embarking on a new family mediation project in prisons.

Managing partner, Stuart Hanson says, “One evening I was surfing the net and I came across an article by Nicola Hartfield, a family mediator in New Zealand. In 2016 she embarked on a very ambitious family mediation project in prisons. Her writing highlighted that along with the US and Australia, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the world, and the shocking fact that children of prisoners are six to seven times more likely to end up in prison than any other child. She goes on to describe the children of incarcerated parents as “the invisible children”. After reading this, I sent an email to a number of prisons and it was confirmed that family mediation was not offered in prison in England and Wales. It was at this point we started putting together a plan. The Prison Service has been very supportive and it is proposed that family mediation in prisons will start in early 2019.” Direct Mediation Services has spoken with Alison Henderson, who runs a charity called, Prison Widow UK about the impact this service will have in prisons. In her correspondence she sent us a poem, which really shows the need for this service beautifully in words. Here is an extract from her poem: “How to tell a child his dad is in prison”.

“I tried telling my son with emotional tact
the truth of the matter, but you can’t hide the fact.
His Daddy has gone and has gone for a while.
You can’t say it with flowers or manage a smile.”

Alison highlights the fact that parents don’t cease being parents when they are jailed and this is something that Direct Mediation Services’ family mediation service wishes to focus on. Stuart Hanson’s final comment was “Family mediation is essential in bringing visibility to
these forgotten families. In addition to this, there are subsequent benefits to society that go beyond the prisoner’s family. Hartfield found in her report that the intervention of family mediation had a direct impact on reoffending rates with the prisoners she worked with. This
is a win win situation for everyone and we look forward to offering this service in all prisons in England and Wales.”

If you would like to take part in family mediation in prisons or just want to know more, please contact Stuart Hanson on: [email protected] or call 0113 468 9593 and select Option 4.

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