by Alison Goddard, Chief Executive Lincolnshire Action Trust.
We’ve seen this month a welcome and long overdue focus on prison reform by the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
As chief executive of a charity dedicated to the care, resettlement and rehabilitation of offenders, I am excited about the concept of individual governor autonomy, which I believe will allow innovative governors the freedom and incentive to respond to local issues in partnership with the local community, local charities and partners.
Lincolnshire Action Trust has experienced this innovation at first hand and our Supporting People After Remand or Conviction (SPARC) and Departure Lounge initiatives are two examples of how local-level schemes, facilitated by a pioneering Governor, can have a hugely positive impact.
You may be unaware that Lincolnshire Action Trust hosts the UK’s only ‘departure lounge’ at HMP Lincoln, which aims to support offenders as they are released. The lounge is a place where families or agencies such as the National Probation Service can arrange to meet the released prisoner.
The lounge team offers a basic help package to address any immediate needs but can also provide guidance on housing, travel and other long-term needs. This service currently supports between 60 and 90 individuals every month.
And SPARC is an assessment service at Lincoln Magistrates Court and Lincoln Crown Court which addresses the immediate needs of offenders who have been sentenced or remanded.
LAT staff identify welfare needs such as arranging for children to be collected from school, informing family members where the person is, arranging for prescription medication to be available, re-homing animals and so on.
A meeting is then arranged on their first day in prison to follow up and start to plan for resettlement. The project supported 702 prisoners last year, and its impact is currently being evaluated by the University of Lincoln.
In our case, the trust’s successful work at HMP Lincoln would not be possible without the vision of Governor Peter Wright.
The reforms outlined by David Cameron will provide a very real opportunity to reduce reoffending rates and improve rehabilitation and reintegration back into society, allowing ex-prisoners to make a positive contribution to Lincolnshire communities.
As always, the detail will determine how successful this approach can be, but the headlines give a level of optimism for those of us who work in the sector.
This is a positive start, but I would welcome a review which addresses issues of overcrowding and low staffing levels as part of an overall programme of reform.
Lincolnshire Action Trust is a registered charity based in Lincoln. We work with statutory and non-statutory agencies to improve the skills and employability of offenders and prisoners in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Leicestershire.
The trust delivers a proactive and innovative partnership approach to achieve the care, resettlement and rehabilitation of offenders, those at risk of offending and their families.
We identify client needs and gaps in current provision and designs bespoke services to address them. Services are tailored to the individual and include sessions on advice and guidance, debt and financial advice, accommodation support, employability and family support and disclosure.
The trust receives funding from a variety of sources including Children in Need for its Children’s Support Services at HMP Lincoln.