Recently in the Mature Times we read of the positive outcomes from Restorative Justice. As was mentioned in the article the Ministry of Justice has funded an expansion of restorative justice provision in England and Wales.
However, that is not the whole story and Police and Crime Commissioners are looking at another aspect of the rehabilitation spectrum. What does the future hold for the young man mentioned in the previous article if he is sentenced to a period in custody?
When he comes out he could well face significant difficulties in finding accommodation and employment. Returning to his old community and friends may well not be possible if he is trying to avoid alcohol or drugs.
It is with these issues that the minister is also funding not-for-profit organisations in providing mentoring services, because so many former prisoners fail to meet these challenges after prison and end up returning to custody.
Mentoring can be a valuable gift to someone who is emerging from prison with an uncertain future and conflicting pressures from family and friends. It offers a grounded and directed support. It is designed to give hope where otherwise it might not exist, or be quickly extinguished by the buffeting of life’s trials in general living.
Staff at Futures Unlocked, a mentoring service working across Warwickshire, train volunteer mentors and put them in contact with prisoners on the verge of being released, who are then supported to make real changes to the way they live their lives. Find out more at www.futuresunlocked.org
Mentors come from any walk of life, including those with a wealth of lived experience to offer by way of guidance and support. All of our mentors have a willingness to engage with an ex- prisoner and see if they can work with him or her towards a better future.
John, 61, who lives in Leamington, Warks., has volunteered for Futures Unlocked for the last three years. John said, “I’ve enjoyed working with all of my clients. Each client has been a very different experience with different challenges but all have just needed some support and encouragement in gaining their own independence. Trust and reliability is key and having a positive role model who the client can pick up the phone to or meet with when things are tough is so important to sustaining a crime-free life.
“What skills I have got to do this? None other than my own life experiences, common sense and the opportunity that my retirement has given me to use some of my free time in a productive and hugely rewarding way.”
Steve, 53, from near Atherstone, Warks., has volunteered with Futures Unlocked for two years and has mentored two ex-offenders.
He said, “Volunteering with Futures Unlocked has enabled me to meet and work with some wonderful people and I have learned a great deal about life, people and myself too. It is rewarding to see how much the clients grow as their lives improve, to be a part of that and to know that some ‘real-world’ good is being done is, in my opinion, a win-win experience.”
Mentors who are available during the day can have a particularly significant role to play as they are able to accompany the client to meetings, advise on the appropriate dress for a job interview, perhaps help with the search for somewhere to live all of which would happen in office hours.
If you live in or near Warwickshire, and are interested in becoming a mentor, why not apply online today at www.futuresunlocked.org or contact us on 01788 547015 for more information?
You can find similar projects in the rest of the country at www.communitychaplaincy.org.uk
by Philip Jones, Community Chaplain at Futures Unlocked
Futures Unlocked receives significant funding from the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office.