The importance of the Amends; Pathway to Opportunity scheme run by HMP Highpoint near Haverhill was reiterated as the prison marked the 25th staging of the employer engagement event.
The scheme, which works with charities, employers and training organisations to educate, upskill and prepare prisoners for work upon their release, was launched (initially under the name Breaking the Cycle) in 2010 and holds the engagement events every three months.
The most striking endorsement of the initiative’s value came from Pat, a prisoner due to be released shortly after serving a three year sentence.
Of Pat, Highpoint Governor, Nigel Smith said: “Pat has been a real success for us. Since January this year he’s been released from prison to work at Sue Ryder (in Haverhill) and stays overnight with his family.
“He’s been released on 175 occasions. In this time he’s represented the prison and himself in a professional and mature way and also remembered he’s still a serving prisoner.
“His success has allowed us to explore other placements.”
Pat told the gathering of more than 40 Amends partners, including the Haverhill Community Sports Association, a community partner in the scheme that has had three successful prisoner placements, how vital their involvement is.
He said: “It’s very important that you support the Amends scheme and that through your own business contacts you spread the word because the one thing we all want is a less violent and a less offensive society and we want to convert those of us that have gone wrong to being good members of the community we are in.
“One of the ways you can do that is by supporting the Amends scheme.”
Pat earlier spoke how he had felt upon entering prison that he was a ‘failure’ and that he ‘had let his family down.’
He told how the best way for prisoners to feel positive about their post-prison life was to be given the opportunity to help themselves and to learn to value being part of a community.
In prison, Pat explained, where offenders are given more freedoms, such as doing their own cleaning, choosing what meals they prepare for themselves, but if they step out of line privileges would be removed.
He said: “It makes us feel accepted because you are part of the community and this is all very important for this movement back into the community, which is important because it’s something us prisoners need to do.
“There’s one thing we all want to feel and that’s a feeling of usefulness and if you feel that you get a bit of self-pride back and you start to feel more useful.”
MP Matt Hancock praised the work of Steve Phillips, the prison’s Head of Reducing Re-offending and Lisa Haworth, it’s Business and Community Engagement Manager, who manage the Amends scheme, which has worked with more than 170 organisations.
Mr Hancock said: “You (Highpoint) have taken the decision to keep ROTL (Release on Temporary License) open and I applaud it.
“All the evidence shows that the more engagement there is with the outside world before a prisoner’s release then it’s more likely to be a successful release.
“Everybody has something to contribute to our local community and something to contribute to society. I’m grateful that Highpoint is one of the leaders in this.”
For further information on Amends please contact Lisa Haworth email@example.com