How HMP Highpoint is helping offenders get back into work

HELPED: Some of the offenders involved in the Breaking the Cycle event.
HELPED: Some of the offenders involved in the Breaking the Cycle event.

OFFENDERS at Highpoint gave an insight to how the training and support they receive from the prison is helping them prepare for life after their release.

Steve, a 33-year-old qualified chef from London, has served three-and-a-half years of an IPP (indeterminate sentence for public protection), the last two-and-a-half at Highpoint, following a conviction for grievous bodily harm.

While in Highpoint he has worked in the gardens seven days a week, an experience that led to the completion of an 18-month distance learning course with the Royal Horticultural Society, something he can now use to gain employment after his release.

Since March he has also been employed by the prison as an orderly to help new arrivals settle in and adapt to life inside.

The learning opportunities he has been given in Highpoint have changed the way Steve looks at his life.

HE said: “I’ve got a 15, 13 and four-year-old and they are growing up. I would rather be a role model now than just an embarrassment as someone who has been in jail.

“This jail specifically is a classed as a working prison and they take it very seriously. There are fantastic opportunities.

“I went into looking at doing a gardening course and they couldn’t have been more accommodating.”

Because his offence involved attacking a man in pub with a broken bottle while drunk, Steve has also completed an alcohol related violence course, and now returns to classes to pass on his own experiences.

Another offender, 44-year-old Darren Palmer, from Woodbridge, is five months into a three-year sentence for committing a £20,000 fraud - although he is appealing against the length of sentence.

He works as an employment orderly, helping offenders who are nearing their release date to prepare their CVs and get them registered with a ‘virtual campus’ an electronic programme they can access to look for work. He is a pioneer of the employment orderly job.

Darren said: “This job itself take up a lot of my time. I’ve just done a money and budgeting course which is part of my sentence programme and that’s proved very useful.

“You do get on with it and try and make a bad situation into a good situation, otherwise it gets harder, and you can never beat the system.

“The only thing you can do is get your head down and get an education.”