Prisoners and Their Children are Not Forgotten at Christmas

Christmas is a tough time of year to be in prison. If you are a mum or dad, it can be particularly distressing. One mum told us ‘I didn’t want my children to think I had forgotten them.’

Pact is the national Catholic charity providing support to people in prison and their children and families. Through Pact’s Operation Elf appeal, hundreds of mums and dads in prison will be able to give their child a Christmas gift this year at a Pact Family Visit Day. This simple gift-giving helps mums and dads inside to maintain their identity as a parent and strengthens vital family bonds.

Operation Elf is Pact’s inspiring appeal which evolves each year as we strive to reach as many parents in prison across England & Wales as we can. This year, Pact’s Faith in Action team focussed on facilitating a range of parish-prison partnerships across a growing number of dioceses. In a concrete example of the Catholic Social Teaching’s subsidiarity principle, each partnership was organised differently to best suit those involved.

In Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception parish in Devizes, Clifton diocese, Pact’s parish rep Anne-Marie spoke at all Masses and held a collection. Parishioners responded with an amazing £1005 to help dads in nearbyHMP Erlestoke give a modest gift to their child at a Pact Christmas Family Day.

In the dioceses of Arundel & Brighton and Portsmouth, parishioners in Sunningdale and Ascot responded to Pactparish rep Alice’s invitation by donating several car- loads of gifts to support dads at nearby HMP Coldingley. Members of these parishes have supported Pact’s work at Coldingley prison in a variety of ways over several years.

Following the sad death of parish priest Fr Dominic McKenna, parishioners at Borehamwood in Westminster diocese organised a wonderful collection of 30 gifts and an additional £400, to support men in prison in HMPPentonville. Parish Administrator Sue Partington reported that parishioners were keen to continue their partnership with Pentonville in memory of Fr Dominic for whom this was a cause ‘close to his heart’.

In the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Parish rep Yvonne organised a collection of 92 simple gifts at St Chad’sCathedral parish for parents in prison in the West Midlands to give to their children.

Gifts to support parents in HMPs Downview and High Down on the border of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton and the Archdiocese of Southwark, were generously donated by parishes from both dioceses: St. Ann’s Banstead and St. Elphege’s Wallington supported Downview; Holy Cross, Carshalton, once again provided giftsfor High Down. In Kent, ‘Toy Sunday’ at the Catholic Churches of Westerham & Biggin Hill Wester will enable dads at HMP Elmley to give a gift to their child during a Pact Family Visit Day.

Schools have got involved in Pact’s Operation Elf appeal too. The chocolate raffle at St. Mary’s Catholic Federation in Carshalton, raised a fabulous £526 whilst Holy Cross School, New Malden, and St. Joseph’sCatholic Primary School, Redhill, made beautiful Christmas cards in which mums and dads could write a special message to accompany their gift.

Members of the Anglican Mothers’ Union are longstanding, strong supporters of Operation Elf. This year they have provided gift cards and monetary donations totalling more than £1000. Their efforts will particularly enable mums and dads in prison to give their teenage child a gift card so they can go and choose a gift and chat about it with their parent.

One mum told us, ‘Your acts of kindness enabled me to send my little girl her first Christmas gift from her mummy since I was remanded in 2020. It has given us both so much joy and helped her understand that I loveand think about her every moment of my day. Bless you.’

There are many more individuals, groups, and workplaces, who have supported Operation Elf – too many to list here. Thank you to everyone who has participated in supporting mums and dads in prison and their children. Your generosity helps them to look forward with joy and hope to being able to make a fresh start and lead good lives together in the future.

We know that when family bonds are nurtured where appropriate, a person leaving prison is 39% less likely toreturn to crime. This is a work of the common good and Pact deeply appreciates all those who have contributed in some way to supporting Operation Elf this year.

Interested in joining our vibrant community of Pact parish reps? Interested in being part of Operation Elf next year?

Talk to Pact’s Faith in Action team

About the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact)

Pact is a pioneering national, Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life changing


services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.

Pact’s vision is of a society in which justice is understood as a process of restoration and healing, in which prisonsare used sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and in which the innate dignity and worth of every human being is valued. We work for the common good of society, taking a public health-based approach. We work at the intersection of criminal justice, child and family welfare, mental health, wellbeing provision and health & social care.

Our volunteers and staff can be found in courts, prisons, probation services, and in communities across England & Wales. Building on our Catholic roots, we are a diverse, inclusive, modern, and collaborative charity. We build effective partnerships and sustainable solutions based on our well-established understanding of the systems in which we work, and on our historic values and ethos developed through our 120+ years of service delivery.

What we do:

  • Build stronger families and safer
  • Reduce risk of harm to prisoners and their
  • Remove barriers and increase awareness in public
  • Influence commissioning, policy and



Twitter: @PactFaithAction


Instagram: @prisonadvice


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Pact is a charity registered in England & Wales, number 219278. Company registration number: 356443.