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Prison mentorship scheme hailed a "miracle" for transforming young lives

Violence reduction experts today praised the success of a radical new mentorship programme which is transforming the lives of young offenders and turning them away from crime.

Nottinghamshire’s new Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) provided funding worth more than £40,000 to Beyond Recovery CIC’s ‘FreeMinds FreePeople’ project working with men aged between 18-25 who are currently serving or have recently been released from HMP Nottingham.

The scheme supports the men through a number of special programmes, helping them to recognise their inner resources and their ability to change their attitudes and expectations and discover their personal potential.   

Such is the success of the scheme that upon completion many of the participants have shown positive changes in attitude and behaviour, including significantly decreased feelings of expression of anger and depression, with one former gang member, who met his friend’s killer during the programme, describing it as “a miracle”.

The man, who cannot be named, told programme volunteers: “To start with, it was a summary of what I thought I knew or got from previous groups but this time, I actually understood that I have a choice to make. For example, if someone annoys me, I have a choice.

“The last session taught me forgiveness. I was in the room with the same guy who killed my friend but I did not recognise him. Whilst in the sessions I understood him as a person, I understood him for what he was as a person and I saw his remorse. I saw him as a human being, as one like me, not labelled as a “rival”.

“On a break he came and asked me “you don’t recognise me do you”? We shook hands. I never thought I would be in the same room with him and not hurt him.”

When asked to describe how it made him feel, the participant replied: “A miracle. This was a miracle. A heavy weight on my shoulder was lifted. It was like a closure. I realised that the moment I can see “the human” in someone I automatically think “if I fight, I fight with myself”. What is the point? He is like me. He is a human being like me, not labelled as “a rival”.

“The group I was in, the environment of the group allowed me to be myself, to open up about our feelings, not being judged. The environment allows us to be us, to be real, to be ourselves, to be the person we are behind closed doors.”

An apprentice programme has been running alongside the scheme since it launched in November to train some graduates to become peer mentors. The aim is to nurture and develop between four and six mentors within the prison environment to encourage them to support their peers and assist with study groups both during their sentence and beyond.

Paddy Tipping, chair of Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), said: “Although still in its infancy, this project is having dramatic results and changing the way these young men view the world and other people.

“What was once considered impossible or even too risky - such as encouraging rival groups to meet and share their experiences - has been achieved and this gives me so much hope for the future safety of our county. I fully concur with the participant’s description of this intervention as a ‘miracle’.

“The more time we spend understanding the causes of violence and aggression and supporting young people to make positive changes, the happier our communities will be. Every young person has potential to make a success, regardless of their start in life, and this is something the VRU partners are determined to make happen.”

"We have worked with over 500 people involved in the CJS since Beyond Recovery CIC started in 2015.  Sometimes with transformational impacts like the one witnessed here.  Both men involved in this story have had a huge shift in their views of the world, they are more humble and have more empathy.  I continue to be in awe of what is possible with these guys when they start to realise their innate wellbeing.  I think this has the potential to have a huge ripple effect on society and community.  The other man in this story said "today you saved someone's life, because one of us would have not been here anymore if it had not been for this shift in our minds".

Founder of Beyond Recovery Jacqueline Hollows said: "We have worked with over 500 people involved in the CJS since Beyond Recovery CIC started in 2015.  Sometimes with transformational impacts like the one witnessed here.  Both men involved in this story have had a huge shift in their views of the world, they are more humble and have more empathy.  I continue to be in awe of what is possible with these guys when they start to realise their innate wellbeing.  I think this has the potential to have a huge ripple effect on society and community.  The other man in this story said ‘today you saved someone's life, because one of us would have not been here anymore if it had not been for this shift in our minds’.”

Beyond Recovery was established in 2015 to provide support for people with complex and multiple needs including substance use, mental ill-health, and a history of trauma and offending behaviours.

Working with more than 500 voluntary participants through the programme, the organisation has seen marked changes in the mental health, well-being and purpose of those it has supported. Many of those who complete the initiative have spent the remainder of their prison sentences developing skills, learning and approaches to challenges which help them upon release.

Ends

 

Media Enquiries:  Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401

 

 

Posted on Thursday 26th December 2019
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