Kate Middleton returned to her royal duties this month and in her latest outing, made an official visit to a women’s prison just outside of London.
The Duchess’ visit was conducted in secret, with Kensington Palace asking media to remain quiet on the subject, until after Kate had completed her visit.
During her time spent within the walls of the prison, Kate spoke with inmates who were going through various programs surrounding drug and alcohol addiction – a cause Kate has previously announced her support towards.
The prison, which houses around 280 inmates, is one of the first prisons to trial programs run by the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust.
The Duchess has been a part of programs designed to help those suffering from addiction, as well as those who are surrounded by family members battling the disease – especially children. She has made it known that charities who aim to combat the causes for addiction, and help those surrounding it, will receive absolute Royal support.
In a Palace press release, it was revealed that Kate met with several prisoners to hear “about their addiction journeys, and how drug and alcohol abuse eventually landed them behind bars.”
She also spoke with former prisoners who had benefitted from the program, turning their lives around to create new starts for both themselves and their family.
“I was reminded today how addictions lie at the heart of so many social issues and how substance misuse can play such a destructive role in vulnerable people’s lives. I saw again today that a failure to intervene early in life to tackle mental health problems and other challenges can have profound consequences for people throughout their lives,” she said in a statement. “I am grateful to the women I met for sharing their difficult personal stories with me. It is encouraging to learn how organisations like RAPt are offering specialist support to help people break the cycle of addiction and look forward to a positive and crime-free life.”
One of the program’s success stories, Kirsty Lacie, 36, shared her appreciation with Kate. A former addict, Lacie left prison after completing the rehabilitation program within the jail, and is now married and expecting her first child.
“As soon as she saw me, she asked me when my baby’s due,” Lacie told PEOPLE. “And she asked if it is a boy or a girl. I told her that I’m having a boy in March and she said, ‘Oh lovely.’
“I talked to her about my journey. She was down to earth and she had a presence that made me feel comfortable. I didn’t feel nervous at all.”
Lacie went on to state that Kate asked her about her history of treatment prior to being imprisoned. When she told Kate that treatment facilities like this had not been made available to her, she said that the royal seemed “genuinely moved…She could see that it came from not being helped from a younger age and not looking at root causes.”
Kate’s presence in the prison is helping to break down boundaries and stigma often associated with drug and alcohol addiction.
“To get a visit from a VIP, and one who has shown so much compassion and understanding to them, reassures them they are doing the right thing,” says Mike Trace, chief executive of RAPt.
“They are people who can be characterised as a problem for society, have complex stories and have to confront what they have done,” he adds. “But they are making a big effort to change, and she clearly showed she understood that complexity.”