A pilot research project was undertaken, the results of which were used to identify some of the key benefits identified by participants taking part in the project. The data would also be used to allow participants to recount their experiences of the project in their own words. Two of the names of the interviewees have been changed at their request.
The aim of the project is to reduce reoffending rates of recently released category D male prisoners by addressing the key barriers to rehabilitation, which have been identified as improvement of self-confidence and motivation, identifying and improving transferable skills and employability, and by working with local businesses and the wider community to reduce stigma and discrimination. This is achieved through the ‘breaking the cycle of re-offending’ rehabilitation programme of training and support.
The initial training is either conducted within the prison or other training venues, depending on the prisoner’s status and eligibility for day release.
The topics covered are aim to update and improve workplace skills covering subjects such as professional boundaries, data protection and telephone and email communication.
At the end of the training prisoners are presented with a certificate that shows the modules undertaken and the level of achievement within that module.
Once the prisoners are on Released on Temporary Licence (ROTL) arrangements are made for them to attend workplace training within the community. All offenders benefit from three full days workplace training a week with partner organisations, where they undergo a full induction that clearly communicates expectations and long term benefits. Furthermore, these opportunities have been designed to supply staffing solutions for vital services that provide free-to-access support for vulnerable local people, and will enable offenders to give something back to community and society. This workplace training will therefore not only count towards offenders’ ROTL back to work obligations and greatly enhance their employment prospects, but also vitally enable local people to seek appropriate support to overcome the challenges they face.
Participants in Scheme
The number of prisoners taking part in the project is rising year on year, with 40 taking part in the first year climbing to a predicted 80 in 2013/2014.
Up to 83% of participants in the project expressed the view that it had assisted them in preparing themselves for employment. In the first year 75% of participants left to start full-time paid employment after fewer than 3 interviews. After the first year the project was opened up and inmates facing additional barriers were recruited, which resulted in a slight decrease in the number of participants finding work. In the second year 72% of participants found paid employment after 5 interviews and in the 3rd year 68% found paid employment after 5 interviews. However, that said the success rate for participants in finding employment was satisfyingly high.
In order to obtain qualitative data about the experience of prisoners who have taken part in the project face-to-face semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 3 participants. The interviewees were asked to speak freely about their experiences and what it meant to them to have had the opportunity of taking part in the project.
Analysis of these interviews identified four main areas of benefit for the participants:-
Each of the interviewees identified that not only had the initial training helped them, but they had been able to go and do further training that had increased their skills, their confidence and the range of jobs they could consider applying for.
Preparing for Employment
Not only did the training improve and update the skills of the participants, it also gave valuable experience of being back in the work place. This included getting back into a routine of having to be ready for work in the morning and working office hours. It also involves working successfully with colleagues and being able to meet and converse with members of the public. All three interviewees went on to paid employment at Citizens Advice and Law Centre (CA&LC).
All of the participants had undertaken the initial training, and then came to work in the telephone room initially. All three of the interviewees had undertaken further training which included Generalist Training, which enabled them to give face-to-face advice to members of the public. Two had gone on to do the Advice Session Supervisor Training, which enabled them to supervise the General Advisers. As outlined above all three interviewees went on to paid employment within CA&LC.
Self-Esteem and Well-being
One important aspect of the training for the participants was the fact that they were helping other people with their problems. Not only did the participants gain immense satisfaction from helping other people, it also helped them to put their own lives and the problems they have been experiencing into perspective.