Release from prison

One25 single-100-casework
One25 single-100-casework

Verity, criminal justice caseworker posted this on 26/05/2017

For a lot of the women we work with, their involvement with the criminal justice system is routine and they can often weather a spell in prison. But without support at the end of a sentence their lives can become very chaotic again straight away. Sometimes the stability of prison can be preferable. Some service users have been relieved to be imprisoned because it gives them respite from violent and controlling relationships.

If a woman is on drugs when they enter prison, they’ll go onto the detox unit. They’ll get onto a script, be supported to detox, and when they’ve stabilised, go into the main prison population. Most women will have a substance misuse worker, some will have more involvement with them than others, and there is a drug recovery community on a specific wing for prisoners with good behaviour.

If there are concerns about mental health then the person will be looked after by the team in the prison (ACTS) and there’s more specialist services too: psychiatric care, counselling. But prison isn’t the ideal place for people to start peeling back all the layers of their trauma. They might be in a really safe environment with their therapist say and have a really deep session but could come out of it feeling vulnerable but going straight back onto the wing. But a lot of support is about behaviour rather than about a person’s trauma. Prison is often not the right environment to get into deep issues stemming, say, from an abusive childhood.

Every prisoner gets a small discharge grant on release to tide them over to their next benefit payment but they can be waiting for weeks. Since 2015, any person who goes into prison on a short sentence will have to have 12 months supervision, generally seeing an officer every week, for the purpose of rehabilitation. If probation is breached, offenders can be recalled for the rest of their sentence. But with the women that we work with, having another appointment every week that they’re expected to keep can be counter-productive and can set them up to fail.

One25 has built a really good relationship with National Probation Service. For example, women who engage really well with a probation officer might have weekly meetings reduced to fortnightly which is much more manageable. A good probation officer won’t be looking to put people into breach but can put ex-offenders on courses on addiction, behaviour, reducing offending, education and employment… looking holistically at what a person needs and supporting them rather than punishing.

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