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25 February 2014

Manx and Welsh restorative schemes win prisoner rehabilitation award

PrisonWorks, a volunteer-led charity based in the Isle of Man prison at Jurby which provides restorative programmes for prisoners to help them address the consequences of their actions, has won the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation 2014. The award is kindly supported by the Worshipful Company of Weavers.

The runner up prize was awarded to The Forgiveness Project for its preparatory restorative justice work undertaken as part of its national RESTORE programme at HMP-YOI Parc in Wales.

The awards will be presented to the winners by the former Chief Inspector of Prisons Lord Ramsbotham at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group in the House of Commons in Westminster on Tuesday 4 February 2014.

This annual award for outstanding rehabilitative work with prisoners by a small charity or community group, working in partnership with prison staff, was set up in the memory of Lord Corbett, the respected former chairman of the Home Affairs Committee in Westminster. For ten years, until his death in February 2012, Robin Corbett also chaired the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group, to which the Prison Reform Trust provides the secretariat.

The emphasis of the award is on work that fosters personal responsibility and which calls on people in prison, and ex-offenders, to take responsibility to help themselves and to help others.

The awards panel comprises: members of Robin Corbett’s family; Lord Ramsbotham, Co-Chair of the All Party Group; Eoin McLennan-Murray, President of the Prison Governors’ Association; a former prisoner; and Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust.

The award judges commended the winning entry, PrisonWorks, for the commitment and dedication of its volunteers and their contribution to helping people in prison address the consequences of their offending and to lead a law-abiding life on release. The restorative programme started two years ago and has given sentenced prisoners on the Isle of Man an opportunity to reflect on the impact of their actions on others and to repair and maintain good relations with their own families.

Through its close links with the community, the charity has been able to arrange accommodation and support for some prisoners on release as well as help to change the attitudes of people on the island to living and working with former offenders. The charity has worked successfully to persuade business owners and accommodation providers to offer jobs and housing to former prisoners when they would not have done previously.

The judges commended the runner up prize winner, The Forgiveness Project, for its involvement of trained former offenders, victims and prison staff in the delivery of the programme and its focus on helping offenders to change how they think and feel about their behaviour. RESTORE has been running at HMP-YOI Parc since 2009 and is one of the most requested programmes by prison staff and prisoners. Using real stories of victims and perpetrators of crime to explore ideas around forgiveness and conflict resolution, RESTORE works by inviting participants to reflect on their own behaviour and motivating them to change.

Both award winners highlight the valuable role restorative measures can play in the process of rehabilitation and making amends. An ICM telephone poll of 1,000 members of the public, commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust and conducted one month after the 2012 riots in England, showed overwhelming popular support for constructive ways in which offenders can make amends to victims for the harm they have caused. Almost nine out of 10 people (88%) agreed that victims of theft and vandalism should be given the opportunity to inform offenders of the harm and distress they have caused.Almost three quarters (71%) believed victims should have a say in how the offender can best make amends for the harm they have caused.

Commenting, Chair of the judges, Lady Corbett, said:

“With limited resources and a small but dedicated team of volunteers, PrisonWorks is an outstanding example of what can be achieved to help people in prison make amends for harm done and turn their lives around. The Forgiveness Project was equally impressive for its involvement of former offenders, victims and prison staff in helping people to make amends.”

Alison Gomme, Governor, Isle of Man prison, said:

“Living in a small island community it can be harder for people to make a fresh start and put their past behind them. The contribution of PrisonWorks has been vital in helping prisoners address the consequences of their offending and enabling them to get the help and support they need to lead a law abiding life.”

Janet Wallsgrove, Director at HMP-YOI Parc, said:

“The popularity of the RESTORE programme with prisoners and prison staff is a testament to its impact. Through hearing the personal stories of victims and former offenders, prisoners develop empathy and understanding of the impact of their behaviour on themselves and others which – in turn – inspires them to break the cycle of vengeance.”

Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“How much better to spend time in custody working on making amends to victims and leading a responsible life, than sitting behind bars in a prison warehouse as your sentence ticks by. These small, innovative charities show what it means to do time rather than waste time.”