I was going to Sudbury and I knew there was a scheme with the Law Centre and because it was office based and it carried a professional logo I thought that would be an ideal thing. If a prisoner can get a volunteer job working for a Citizens Advice Bureau and Law Centre it looks very good that under the circumstances you’ve tried to not only better yourself, but that a professional organisation has given you this sort of opportunity, so that’s why I chose it.
You don’t have to do anything [in prison], so you can choose to do the rest of your sentence inside. You can look for paid work, but to go on to paid work you have to do 28 days’ worth of charity, but what they’ve done with the CAB is they’ve said because it classes as training as well, you have to do six months at the CAB before you can go on to paid work, but for me if I’m honest I was just happy coming into here. From the prisons point of view they would’ve put you on a farm or in a charity shop such as Oxfam or the PDSA. If push came to shove and this wasn’t there I may have opted for those, but I don’t think I would’ve been very happy. I think because there’s so many different roles [at CAB], there’s a lot of variety so that you’re not really pigeon-holed into one thing. You work with decent people and enjoy trying to help people, or knowing that I’m on the road to helping them even if I’m not doing it myself.[For training] we had a weekly training schedule with the training co-ordinator where we covered modules relating to housing, debt, and all the things that we get asked on the phone. We also obviously had the initial look around Petra (a computer database) and the building and also shadowing the face to face interviews with clients, so we received the full training.
Now for half of the week I’m downstairs mainly in the telephone room or doing face to face assessing and for the remaining half of the week I work as an administrator (paid employment) for the money wise and included team upstairs.
I would say this is definitely the best opportunity for anyone in prison, the only thing is with the prison I think maybe if there was more scope for getting a paid job or something out of it then maybe that would entice people, but I still think I would say it’s the best thing on offer by the prison, I’d still do this again and I’m happy being here as well. I think it’s a good thing to have had, it’s the best thing to come out of prison if I’m honest. It’s something that I can add to my CV, I can say that I’ve been working for the time that I’m released. It’s been a really positive thing and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone else. I think you get out of it what you put in so, you can just choose to stay in the telephone room which is where you first go when you come in. Then you can choose to say look I wanna do this, I wanna do this, go on the courses and no one stops you. If they see that you are looking for a career outside in this, then you can progress it, so I think that’s quite valuable and pretty decent thing to get out of it, especially being in prison and getting all that positivity.
If you choose to do an education course in prison that’s very academic, you are still tarnished as having a criminal record behind you, whereas this can be seen as sort of more vocational in the sense that you can get the GA course that’s recognised in all the bureaux across the country and you’re gaining work experience at the same time, so it’s like qualification and experience and a reputable organisation and sometimes having those three can work out better for you once you leave and you’re more likely to be taken on by the bureau once your sentence ended, but if you choose to stay in the prison and do something academically you’re not guaranteed a job at the end of it. So I think that it’s more than a vocational type of training, like an apprenticeship type thing and because of that and given the situation you’re in coming from prison, it can be more useful once you leave.
I thought whatever money I’m going to gain it’s not going to be through a really professional job anyway considering the situation I’m in, it’s going to be something in a warehouse or a factory, but actually with something like this behind me, well this would look way better and I’d feel better about it as well, more professional.
I don’t think it’s changed what I’m going to do after my release because that is pretty much a separate area but it has helped me use my time wisely in the sense that instead of being locked away and rotting, just being stale mentally you’re interacting with the public, you’re helping and you’re gaining a skill and also you’re gaining the support of a reputable organisation while you’re being inside. So although you’ve got the stigma of being a prisoner you’ve got the bonus of the fact that a reputable bureau has taken you on and recognised your skills, but I think the two, it sort of helps wipe away a bit of the other.