When managing a prison with low security levels it is important to create a positive relationship with the local community whereby the prison is integrated with the community and vice versa. HMP Standford Hill is an open prison with 464 male prisoners who are serving sentences ranging from a few weeks to a "life" sentence. Most of the prisoners are not from the local area but as an establishment the prison is part of the local community.
"Active Citizenship" is about being involved in the community, having one's say and taking part in decisions that affect one. It is essential that it involves the governor, senior managers, the prison staff, the offenders and the local community outside. With this in mind the vision statement for Standford Hill Prison is "Together we make Standford Hill a Safe, Decent and Positive Community".
The following examples will show how to work toward integrating the prison into the lives of the local community.
Active Citizenship Together for Swale (ACT Swale)
ACTSwale is a partnership project formed under the banner of the Swale Community Safety Partnership in March 2007. Key partners include Amicus Horizon, who are a housing trust providing homes for the elderly and disadvantaged people, and Swale Borough Council. The project is jointly funded by these two organisations and managed by staff from Standford Hill Prison.
ACT Swale are a team of five serving offenders on temporary release from HMP Standford Hill, a supervising prison officer and supporting departments within the prison (Working Out Scheme, Gardens Department, Offender Management Unit). In addition operational project leads are assigned from Amicus Horizon and the Council.
The Working Out Scheme within the prison identifies and risk-assesses suitable candidates for the work. Once selected, the offenders sign a compact to agree to work on the project and abide by certain rules. They receive training in the use of garden tools and general health and safety before starting on the project. Amicus Horizon and Swale Borough Council co-ordinate and primary risk assess jobs and the prison officer supervisor conducts secondary risk assessment for hazards on site.
Outcomes are measured by Amicus for customer/resident satisfaction, Swale Borough Council for cleaner, greener targets and reduced fear of crime, and HM Prison Service for change in offender behaviour. In addition, outputs are measured for value for money. It is far more cost effective to use the AC TSwale team than to use contractors for the work being completed.
Swale area organisations have been the sole contributors for the two years of the pilot project, Canterbury City Council now buying in for 2009/2010. Amicus use the project to clear gardens for vulnerable, disabled and elderly clients and also for project work in the Swale Borough (and some further afield). The Council uses the team for public open spaces and community requested work.
The Community response has been extremely positive, letters of thanks, e-mails, photos have been sent in by residents. Media response has also been very positive -numerous write ups and some high profile visits over the two years. Awards for Environmental Excellence as well as other awards have been won. Offenders on the scheme are better behaved in the establishment and more positive about their life after prison.
Island Sports College
The purpose of the Physical Education Department (hereinafter PE Department) within Standford Hill Prison is
- to address the offending behaviour of prisoners, to tackle the criminogenic factors and reduce the likelihood of re-offending upon release;
- to provide a high quality physical education programme which includes structured classes and activities designed to meet the needs, abilities and aptitudes of prisoners and offer support and advice to prisoners and staff on issues relating to physical recreational and lifestyle activities;
- all activities in the PE Department will as faras possible reflect the activities on offer in the community which people can expect to participate in on release;
- to encourage social responsibility through the medium of sport and recreation and offer relevant vocational training to assist in rehabilitation.
A Peer Tutor Scheme is well used across the PE Cluster using selected offenders who are trained to help and advise their peers. They help to run courses passing on their knowledge to other prisoners, increase learning and teaching across many areas. The use of peer tutors helps to build self esteem and confidence and many of the peer tutors have gained employment in the leisure industry on release from prison.
Many links with employers have been built up including various health clubs, companies and sport teams such as Virgin Active, Fitness First, David Lloyd, Serco Leisure, Greater London Leisure, Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient Football Clubs, and London Towers Basketball Club.
The Island Sports College has developed positive links with the local community such as Health and Fitness Solutions which is a social enterprise scheme set up with prisoners trained and delivering courses for the Island Partnership which is a local charity based in Sheerness.
They have also created links by bringing the local community inside with many community groups visiting the PE Department, including access to the swimming pool where lifeguards and swimming lessons were provided and, along with the Working Out Scheme prisoners were provided to help at some of their centres.
Team building and healthy living schemes are also provided for local schools. The Minster College and the Borden Grammar School have co-operated in the programme, this latter one has provided £6.000 towards our mobile team challenge kit.
Community liaison has been further developed by raising charity for the local community and over £5.000 have been raised for the local community charities.
"Active citizenship" is, above all. about people making things happen and giving serving prisoners a real chance to give something back to the community by way of reparation for the offence that they have committed. But also, as a result of this, they are able to improve the quality of life of residents in the local community and positively enhance their personal confidence and self esteem.
This all helps towards achieving the joint vision that "Together we make Standford Hill a Safe, Decent and Positive Community!"
Source: "European Best Practices of Restorative Justice in the Criminal Procedure" Conference Publication, based on the conference named "European Best Practices of Restorative Justice in the Criminal Procedure".