The recent announcement in the Queen’s speech of the Prison Reform and Courts bill has been followed by the naming of the early adopter prisons and their executive governors. This further underlines the government’s plans to enable prisons to become “places of positivity and reform…; where the environment is one of rehabilitation and mending lives”. This will be achieved through a series of reforms that include a high level of governor autonomy for the early adopters, a review of prison education and a greater use of Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL).
Clinks welcomes any moves to create a more positive rehabilitative experience for those in prison, matched by an environment that is safe, supportive and purposeful. We have a membership of hundreds of organisations that work in prisons delivering essential services, as they have done for decades. The Transforming Rehabilitation agenda brought its own challenges to the voluntary sector, but ever able to adapt to changing policy directions organisations continue to be creative, professional, engaged and a vital link for prisons at both an operational and strategic level.
We hope that the autonomy given to some of the governors will enable a more robust engagement with the voluntary sector, valuing the expertise and specialism that it can bring. Clinks is working to ensure the engagement between prisons and the sector continues and is built on to ensure organisations are a key contributor to the government’s latest vision.
5 areas of Clinks’ prison work:
1. Invitation to the reform prisons
Our Chief Executive has already written to the new Executive Governors and as part of our NOMS-funded work to support the sector’s engagement with the prison reform programme, has offered Clinks’ services to build stronger, more effective partnerships with the voluntary sector organisations in their areas.
2. Amplifying the voice of the sector
We are capturing views and providing briefings on a number of prison-related areas:
- The Rehabilitative Prison: What does ‘good’ look like? is a Clinks discussion paper which aims to provide an early opportunity for voluntary sector organisations to contribute their views on the prison reforms.
- Dame Sally Coates’ review into prison education is explained via a Clinks blog and will shortly be followed up with a briefing for the voluntary sector.
- Inside out: the role of the voluntary and private sector in providing opportunities for rehabilitation for people on temporary release is a joint briefing by Clinks and the Prison Reform Trust based on a survey of voluntary and private sector providers of ROTL placements in the community. The briefing makes a series of recommendations intended to inform the government’s review of ROTL and wider plans for prison reform.
- When the Prison Reform and Courts Bill is published, probably later this year, Clinks will co-ordinate a response from our members. We will also be looking out for the publication of a ‘Life chances’ strategy described as the "...Government’s new approach to tackling poverty and transforming the life chances of the most disadvantaged children and families”.
3. Voluntary sector co-ordination pilot project
Clinks are working in partnership with three prisons in the South West to develop innovative practice between prisons and the voluntary sector (see the prisons page here for a partnership working opportunity). The project aims to support better co-ordination of voluntary sector provision; enhance prisoner knowledge of and access to voluntary sector support; and develop the strategic role of the voluntary sector in the prison. The co-ordination in HMP Dartmoor, HMP Exeter and HMP Guys Marsh will last for 12 months and seeks to provide a tailored sustainable model of co-ordination in each prison, which is co-designed with key stakeholders including prisoners. A review of best practice will be conducted and the findings published at the end of the project.
4. A new guide for prisons
The new Clinks guide ‘The Rehabilitative Prison: Good engagement with the voluntary sector’ provides prison governors and staff with practical guidance on effective engagement. It clearly lays out five key areas of focus, with suggested activities and useful tips. The short guide ends with some further resources to support wider networking and engagement with the sector.
5. Valuing volunteering in the Criminal Justice System project
This project, funded by the Ministry of Justice and delivered by Clinks, has ‘taken the temperature’ of volunteering in prisons. Clinks has investigated the extent and benefits of volunteer involvement in our prisons. The project seeks to understand good practice in prison volunteering, and how prison governors could work alongside the voluntary sector to support it. More information is on the project page.
All of the above seeks to work with prisons and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the voluntary sector at a national and local level, and to support better engagement as the reform agenda moves forward. As that dialogue continues, we hope to seek further opportunities and possibilities for partnership working between the sectors. Find out more about our prison work by visiting our prison page.
Please keep in touch with us about any good practice you think can be built on.