Martin Narey, the Prison Service director general has decided that partners of gay prisoners should be given special status to allow them to visit their lovers in jail more easily. A change has been made to prison rules in England and Wales to allow homosexual partners to be classified as close relatives. Gay prisoners who are in a relationship with other inmates in a different prison are to be allowed “inter-prison visits” to encourage stability in their lives. In a letter to Unlock, the national association for former offenders, Mr Narey acknowledged that prison rules discriminated against gay inmates. He said: “This has been particularly evident in our visits policy, in which recognition is given to common-law heterosexual relationships, but not to same-sex partners.” He said he had decided to instruct all prison governors that the rules had been changed and that partners of gay prisoners should “enjoy the special status afforded to other family members”. He said: “This means that visits by those in this category can only be stopped in exceptional circumstances, and where both parties are imprisoned the governor has the discretion to grant inter-prison visits.” Mark Leech, the chief executive of Unlock, described the rule change as “a significant step for the Prison Service on the road to equality”. He said: “Prisoners who leave prison and return to a stable relationship, whether with a same-sex or opposite-sex partner, are five times less likely to reoffend and so maintenance of those relationships in prison is of great importance.” Mr Leech said that the recent formation of a gay and lesbian prison staff association would have been “unthinkable even three years ago”.