This from the Guardian:-
Frank's first day out of prison was long and stressful, but I stuck by him
I’m sitting at a window in the administration block of a category B prison in west London. I’m waiting for the week’s discharges to start filing out, heading towards freedom, having paid their debt to society.
I’m there to meet one of them. His name is Frank* and I’ve been seeing him for the past four months as part of a “through the gates” mentoring initiative. Inside Out, the charity behind the scheme, has been matching volunteer mentors from the community with prisoners awaiting release. We volunteers have provided both emotional and practical support to try to minimise the risks of reoffending.
A vital part of this has involved meeting our mentees at the gate, on their day of release, and shepherding them through a myriad of appointments and layers of bureaucracy to try to give them some semblance of permanence at what is a time of enormous change and anxiety.
When I meet Frank outside, he smiles. But it’s short-lived as he seems determined to get on with things. He knows the score. It’s not the first time he’s done this.
We immediately head to the nearest convenience store down the road from the prison. Frank has a list of names and prison numbers and doesn’t hesitate to spend most of his release money (a paltry sum of approximately £30 which every prisoner is given on release), on newspapers and magazines to be delivered to his friends on the inside. They’d do the same for him, he assures me.
With that done, we begin the real work of the day, starting with a meeting at the local probation office, scheduled weeks in advance. Yet Frank’s probation officer isn’t working that day, we discover, so we swiftly carry on to the Jobcentre Plus office. They aren’t expecting him either and the staff instruct him to complete an online application for jobseeker’s allowance.
We sit at a computer and Frank looks lost, his index fingers hovering above the keyboard, occasionally pecking at the keys which seem unfamiliar to him. I offer to take over and together we eventually fill in the form. Frank thanks me, saying he wouldn’t have had the patience on his own.
Afterwards we head to the civic centre where Frank has an appointment to arrange his housing benefit, again arranged well in advance. We arrive early and sign in, then sit in the waiting area and wait our turn. One hour becomes two hours and two become three. We drain multiple cups of coffee. More than once, Frank gets up, clearly irate, and starts to walk out. I have to run after him to convince him he’s throwing away more than he thinks. Eventually we are seen and Frank is granted access to a temporary hostel until his benefits come through.
We walk to the hostel and up to his room. Frank looks visibly relieved to drop his bags. It’s not much, but for the next few weeks it’s his: somewhere he can call home and where he – not a prison officer – can lock and unlock the door as he pleases.
It’s only then, when the security of his lodgings is assured, that Frank starts to think about food. I ask what he’d like for his first meal on the outside. He insists on a Big Mac.
By this time it’s heading into evening and our day together is drawing to a close. We swap phone numbers and agree to keep in touch. Frank gives me a hug, a surprising show of warmth. Before we part, he tells me he couldn’t think of anyone else who would stick by him for a whole day, going through what we have been through. Frank tells me I’ve done more for him than any probation officer or key worker has ever done. He turns and heads off towards, I hope, a brighter future.
* Frank is a pseudonym.
Aris Tsontzos is a trustee of Inside Out. The charity is closing later this month owing to financial problems. Responsibility for mentoring has been passed to the chaplaincy of the prison described.
For me, this is the key bit:-
"The charity is closing later this month owing to financial problems."
No mention of this on their website. A google search brings up nothing. What's the back story? Another inevitable consequence of 'Transforming Rehabilitation' I guess? The project looks good to me and just what Grayling promised, right?
At Inside Out, our mission is to help a wide range of prisoners make a successful journey from their cells back into society by training and supporting a diverse selection of volunteer mentors to enable them to do so.
We will achieve this through:
* One-to-one relationships
* Co-operative Independence
Our mentoring is at an enhanced level because a diverse and experienced range of volunteer mentors deal with a wide range of mentees, including those with a mental health and substance abuse history. They are also pro-active advocates for their mentees in helping to solve their practical problems.
The one-to-one relationship between offender and voluntary mentor is at the heart of our work. It is established inside the prison and continued after release. Many mentees have little support from family or friends and their major need is for somebody independent to talk to. They value the fact that our mentors are completely voluntary and are not connected with any official body. Our volunteers are from a wide range of ages, races, educations, backgrounds, and are of any religion or none. Our mentees are prisoners who express a desire to turn over a new leaf, regardless of age, history or tendency to recidivism.
Inside the prison there are a variety of options for support, but it is not always easy to access them, nor are they always provided efficiently. The mentor may need to chase up:
* Borough affiliation and Probation/CRCs
* Home Detention Curfew applications
* NOVUS - the body inside the prison responsible for rehabilitation of short-term prisoners, including their preparation for life outside
* Access to support for drug and alcohol abuse via RAPt
* Employment options within the prison
* Legal issues, including outstanding court cases
Outside the prison the mentee is even more likely to need support with the complexities and bureaucracy involved in surviving on the margins of society. The mentor may need to contact:
* Probation or CRC Officer
* Borough Housing Officer and other accommodation providers
* Job Centre Plus
* Drug and alcohol support workers
* GP and other health workers
* Providers of employment or volunteer opportunities
* Education providers
* Solicitors and court officials
* Providers of support for financial issues and debt
All our mentors have two days’ training before being matched with a mentee. They have on-going support sessions and extra training is also available.
Since Inside Out’s inception there has always been a psychotherapist working on the team whose role is to assess risk and offer sessions to offenders with complex needs such as a history of violence, mental health problems or sex offences. They offer therapeutic sessions to a variety of offenders, provide support and extra training to those mentors who are interested in working with these more challenging mentees. In addition to this they work with prison staff and ACCT Assessors offering a Staff Support Service and workshops to develop understanding in complex areas such as trauma.
Operating within the prison system yet retaining full independence we are building synergistic partnerships with other charities and statutory bodies. Independence supercharges the enthusiasm and commitment uniquely provided by volunteers, while co-operation with other providers avoids duplication and enables us to provide coherent services that benefit prisoners.
We are risk assessed and operate as an independent part of the Chaplaincy team, and were highly rated in the recent prison inspection, which said ‘Good resettlement and mentoring services were provided by the Inside Out group’ [HM Inspectorate of Prisons, December 2015]
Our success is confirmed by closely monitoring our own results within the performance of the overall relationship. We are to be formally evaluated by Westminster University in May 2016.
Within the complexities of the evolution of 'Transforming Rehabilitation' we never lose sight of our purpose which is to help prisoners re-enter positively into society.