A Strategy for Reform (Ministry of Justice 2013)
• the voluntary sector has an important contribution to make in mentoring and turning offenders’ lives around;
• nothing we do will work unless it is rooted in local partnerships and brings together the full range of support, be it in housing, employment advice, drug treatment or mental health services.
Recently, as part of my work for Beyond Support, I visited Drake Hall women’s prison in Staffordshire. I spoke with women who find themselves inside, wondering if they will be strong enough to get through their next exit from prison without being met at the gate by their pimp and having their first ‘free’ hit on the outside within minutes. They know the pattern. It’s easier to get a lift and stay with a boyfriend than use your travel warrant and end up in a hostel. Each woman had ideas of what they would like to do and knew of charities who might be able to help them back home. It’s just having the encouragement and knowing people there who could help straight away.
Lynne runs the Community Rehabilitation Company at Drake Hall and used to work there 10 years ago when she had a good-sized team and the resources to help women find more than housing. Nowadays, she and her part-time staff work very hard to do what they can, but much beyond a place to stay is no longer attainable.
S finds it hard to form relationships. She would like to work in a social enterprise bakery run by C2C in Northampton when she gets out. She wants to help herself to build a future but it’s not easy turning up on the doorstep of a charity after months away. Lynne and her team may not be able to facilitate contact but the phone number of Beyond Support is 0800 1337870, so it’s free and is now on the list of ‘ok’ numbers recognized by the prison. S can call us and speak to someone who will be there to build trust with. We can get the ball rolling with the bakery now whilst her resolve is strong and be in touch with Yellow Ribbon UK, the community chaplaincy who can support her when she leaves.
Are people like us at Beyond Support plugging gaps that funding cuts have created? Probably, but at least we’re there to understand and make the links so that women can find routes out of sexual exploitation.