The challenges

I have previously mentioned that I volunteer as a mentor for male offenders upon release from prison who have served relatively short sentences. I may, if it’s something people are interested in reading, do a more in depth post about my role as a mentor but I just wanted to share my, all to familiar, experience from yesterday.

When an individual expresses interested regarding having a mentor inside prison they go through an interview process and are eventually matched with 1 or 2 mentors. On the day of their release the project co-ordinator and the mentors collect the individual from prison and we usually spend the day together attending any appointments and getting to know each other a little.

I think something which many people feel, which I fully empathise with as to a degree this was my view a number of years ago, is that many people inside prison express the view that the system is against them and they are being ‘set up to fail.’ I want to emphasise that this is my experience only, I am fully aware of the success stories, and have been involved in a number of these, and the dedication and teamwork displayed by many individuals within agencies who work alongside these guys but time and time again when we go to collect someone who is keen to work with us we are left feeling baffled by the end of the day.

Before we go to collect a guy we make sure we have spoken with, if appropriate, their probation officer, staff at an approved premises if this is the situation, and anyone from other agencies who are involved in the rehabilitation of the individual.

So, yesterday, after a slight misunderstanding with release times (something I could write a whole separate post about) we finally met up with with *A* and headed back over to the area he was resettling. A and ourselves were both informed that he must arrive at the approved premises by 2pm for his induction and other than that we only had to go to the job centre to open a new claim. We were told his probation officer was on holiday and was happy for him to wait until next week for their first meeting. We had to pass the approved premises to get to the job centre so thought we would drop by to put a face to a name and to see if it was possible to leave A’s things in the office. We were ever so lucky as when we turned up staff from the approved premises along with a stand in probation officer were waiting, stating that they did have a meeting with him at 12 noon. Luckily this probation officer was understanding however in the past we have worked alongside guys who have been breached and recalled back to prison for situations very similar.

Nobody could quite work out why we were all given different times and information but I do have a degree of sympathy with those who feel as though this is being done purposely. Although I doubt that it is, I just feel that often the disjointedness of agencies who work alongside offenders places the individual in an even more difficult position than the one in which they are already in.

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