New artworks set to brighten up prison visiting halls

Friday 5th April 2024

In an exciting new project, Quentin has produced a series of 5 illustrations about family relationships, for display in prison visiting halls across England and Wales.  

The rooms, where children meet their incarcerated parents, were perceived by HM Prisons service workers as stressful and unwelcoming for young visitors.  Appoximately 200,000 children in England and Wales have a parent currently in custody.

Quentin, now 91, worked with Dal Babu, retired Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, and with HM Prisons service staff, to create family-themed posters to “soften the environment” in visiting halls.  The artworks of parents playing with, greeting or reading to their children, are drawn in pen and ink, each tinted wiith a single colour of watercolour in orange, blue, green and pink. 

Sir Quentin told Inside Time, the prison newspaper: “I started looking at family scenes and, more specifically, the relationship between children and their parents, especially those in prison. The task immediately became a real pleasure.”

Jason Swettenham, a senior Prisons Service executive who facilitated the project, said: 
"Please spare a thought today for the children of the incarcerated, the parent left at home picking up the pieces and the absent parent managing the homesickness and guilt.”

Describing a drawing of a father reaching out to take his baby from its mother, he said: “In such a simple sketch, Quentin captures beautifully, the joy and unbridled love of the incarcerated parent.” 

Edward Argar, prisons minister, said: “More than 200,000 children have a parent in custody and maintaining family ties plays a vital role in helping prisoners turn away from crime.  This wonderful artwork from Quentin Blake will help make prison visit halls welcoming and reinforce the importance of keeping families connected, which evidence shows reduces the chances of reoffending and makes our streets safer.”

Plans are being formulated to expand the use of the artworks to include establishments in Scotland after the initial launch in England and Wales.