Hope

LandWorks - Hope for people in prison. Working in the wood workshop

Hello

In the past, I’m not sure that I felt comfortable with the notion of ‘hope’.

I didn’t quite ‘get it’, perhaps it had some odd religious connotation for me, don’t know. But I have always had trust, that it’s going to be okay, a conviction that it will be all right.

Four years on (it’s LandWorks’ birthday this week), I now ‘get’ hope. I now humbly ‘get’ hopelessness.

Again (four years on), I am outside the big prison gates waiting for our new cohort of day release prisoners (only a handful of Category C prisoners in Britain get this opportunity).

Has anything changed? LandWorks’ fundamental beliefs and ethos hold true and we have not deviated from our original aims…

  • Improve well-being
  • Reduce reoffending

I am older, a bit battered, but wiser and I know I am about to hear the same stories today that I heard four years ago. Men at their lowest point are minutes away from giving me the glossiest possible version of their lives. And why not eh?

Because they want a future and they need a sense of hope to have a future.

The gates open, and here we go again. Together we’re going to go for it; we unpeel the lot, let it all out, ‘til finally the truth comes. The crime, the verdict and public admonishment… the sentence, the horror of doing time… Gives way to exposing and understanding the almighty “f#@ked up” lifestyle that was festering below, until the madness stopped…prison.

Nothing changes? Yet everything has changed. Four years ago there was a functioning prison service; there was a working probation service. Not any more, damming reports are piling up and evidence mounts of organisations that are failing offenders and, by default, all of us.

Essentially LandWorks has not changed, yet we have morphed and flexed to develop new referral routes to keep us going as the criminal justice system contorts and tries to evolve into a new ‘transformed’ rehabilitation service.

LandWorks is there, I believe ahead of the game.

Accepting and providing rehabilitation for:

  • Prisoners on day release, from our local prison HMP Channings Wood
  • Offenders on licence finishing the 2nd half of their prison sentence in the community
  • Offenders with community sentences and pay-back hours
  • Offenders with suspended sentences
  • Offenders with court orders with Rehabilitation Activities Requirements (RARs)
  • Offenders on a deferred charge scheme – diverting first time offenders away from crime

The prison population needs to be reduced. Community sentencing really should increase and I believe we need a ‘LandWorks’ involved at every prison and working in every community.

It’s quite basic really. At the point of release, to stand a chance of resettlement, offenders should have:

  • a safe place to sleep, from the day of release
  • access to enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing, and transport
  • active links into services that can assist with other needs, for example substance misuse and mental health service

Today:

  • 27% of offenders leaving prison have some of these needs recognised
  • 58% have none of these needs recognised (Ministry of Justice, 2017)

Recalls back to prison are at an all-time high, last year 22,416 offenders were recalled (3,182 in 2001).

This is hopeless. Offenders are discharged from prison with £47 to last a minimum of two weeks before any benefit comes. Precious little chance of housing. Drug and mental health support simply disappearing. You can see the direct link to absurdly high prison recall numbers.

Entering the criminal justice system to become labelled as offender and classed as criminal, it marks you, tarnishes you as ‘other’. Often eliminating the ‘hope’ of a future.

I often wonder if most people just consider ‘criminal’ as a one-size fits all, simple, easy to use category.

The reality is a guilty verdict of an offence is the tip. The iceberg below conceals a multitude of problems around an individual’s lifestyle. The justice system at present can do very little to address these issues.

As you know, our resettlement figures are impressive:

  • 93% of day release prisoner graduates are in employment
  • Our reoffending rate is below 4%

So, why is LandWorks succeeding where others are failing?

  • Importantly offenders choose to come to LandWorks, they want to be here
  • LandWorks is based on core principals of empathy, acceptance, and honesty
  • Here, it is possible to create an identity that is not a criminal self
  • Our resettlement support is relevant to the lives of the people who engage with LandWorks
  • Unusually (in this sector), individuals remain in contact with tapering long-term support
  • LandWorks is a uniquely capable team, now employing two of our own graduates.

If a sense of hope can turn into a belief that a future is possible, then I think we are getting somewhere.

If you have read this far, thank you, it is an unusually long blog. Hopefully you are not alone!

If you would like to comment please do so.

Chris

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