3 minutes read

Young Fathers in Prison – Getting Involved in Shaping New Research

Soraya Gayle

I recently started as the Research Assistant on the Fathers Together study, where we want to understand the needs and experiences of young fathers in prison, particularly those who are from Black, Asian or minority ethnic groups. Our study is funded for two years and at the end, we want to have co-developed a parenting programme, similar to Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC), to support young fathers in prison and their families.

Before starting on this study, I worked at HMPYOI Pentonville for 4 years on a 12-week intervention programme, called Time4Change. Here, young men aged 18-25 years take part in weekly discussion groups where they can share their views on a range of topics such as grooming, relationships and fatherhood. These topics were chosen in consultation with prisoners of all ages, and the young men who participate are encouraged to co-facilitate discussions with the team. What always came through strongly was the importance of families to young people, particularly those who are fathers.

I regularly heard young men say, “I’ve never spoken about myself or my trauma within a group setting whilst in prison”. They frequently stated the benefits of hearing other young men’s views on topics such as fatherhood and appreciated having a safe space to share openly whilst learning from one another.  Additionally, prison officers often mentioned that participating in these groups helped them to see the young men in a different light, which assisted in repairing some of the breakdown in staff/prisoner relationships, which can happen in such a challenging environment. Clearly, there is an important role for programmes like SFSC in prisons, and our study will focus on this in detail.

Many young men also argued that the prison service should develop programmes that are “fit for its consumer”; and who better to advise on those interventions but the prisoners and their families themselves? This has become an important agenda for researchers too, where too many projects have been done to people rather than with them – we want to change that and develop our study to answer the questions that matter.

We therefore are looking to set up a ‘public involvement’ group which will include around 10 people with lived experience of being a young father in prison. That may include young fathers who have been recently released or could be an older parent who was in prison a while back as a young father. 

We want to meet with the group every 3 months for the 2-years of the study to talk about our plans and the findings – and we want the group to help us shape this as we progress with the study. For those involved in the groups, it is a chance to feed into this important research and build some skills in things like research, public speaking, and reading and writing for different people. We will provide lots of support so that we all benefit from working together.

The meetings will last around two and a half hours and you’ll get a £25 voucher at every meeting as a thank you for your time. There will be refreshments and lunch, and reasonable travel expenses will be covered.

If interested, you can email me on s.gayle@ucl.ac.uk or come to our informal online information session on Friday 27th May 2022 from 14:00 – 15:00, where we will talk about the study more and how you can get involved as part of the public involvement groups. Sign-up here if you want to attend the information session.

You can also find out more about our study via our website: www.fatherstogether.co.uk or via our Twitter: @TogetherFathers.

Soraya Gayle is a Research Assistant at UCL working on Fathers Together, a two-year study which is co-lead by Dr Anita Mehay and Professor Richard Watt and in partnership with the Race Equality Foundation.