Our mentors have worked with over 200 inmates in 10 prisons since our programme began in 2007
October 14, 2015: Some of the more interesting speeches made during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester recently went largely unreported.
One such speech was that given by Justice Secretary, Michael Gove who spoke in length about his plans for reform of the justice system in England and Wales.
Gove’s time as Education Secretary was characterised by his reforming zeal and a single-mindedness to push through his ideas, despite attracting the ire of the teaching profession.
Whatever your views on the policies he was proposing, you have to admire the clarity of his vision. Following his move to Justice Secretary, Mr Gove appears to be taking a thoughtful approach to what he sees as the totemic issue of this new brief – prison reform.
On a recent trip to Texas, Mr Gove visited several prisons to witness the impact of a massive state spend on probation officers and rehabilitation initiatives, which has led to a 12% drop in incarceration rates and the closure of three prisons.
He witnessed inmates taking part in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program which, as its names suggests, teaches prisoners a wide range of business skills in the hope of equipping them for success after their release.
Another focus is to empower inmates with the belief that they are capable of thriving outside of prison and have no need to slip back into criminal activity. It seems to be working. More than 200 former inmates have set up their own private companies after their release and the reoffending rate amongst participants has dropped by two thirds.
The influence of this visit was evident in Mr Gove’s speech to the conference, which struck a progressive note, citing an “unremitting emphasis on reform, rehabilitation and redemption” and suggesting that “we should never define people by their worst moments”. The speech concluded with a commitment to the biggest change in how the UK prison system is run in living memory.
As Managing Director of Mosaic, a social mobility charity that specialises in mentoring in both prisons and schools, I am well aware of the positive impact that timely and structured guidance given to vulnerable members of society can have.
Our mentors have worked with over 200 inmates in 10 prisons since our programme began in 2007. We spend six months mentoring a prisoner before their release and another six months once they are back in society.
We help them with practical considerations, such as accommodation and employment, as well as helping to inspire in them a sense of self-worth and planting the idea that the new start marked by their release is a chance for genuine change and opportunity.
|The results of our mentoring programme have been impressive, with a 20% drop in reoffending rates amongst mentees and a consequent saving to the tax payer of an estimated £3m.
Our founder, HRH The Prince of Wales, was able to see at first-hand the impact of these changes on the individuals involved during his recent visit to HMP Leeds. But we are always looking for new mentors to help in this vital work. So please get in touch via the various channels listed below if you’d be willing to give up some time to ensure that prisoners are given a better chance of contributing positively to society on their release.
I’m pleased that prison reform is moving higher up the government’s policy agenda. There’s much work to be done but if we hold Michael Gove to the vision and promises he set out in his speech, then I think we can be optimistic about the future.
Jonathan Freeman is Managing Director of Mosaic