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SALFORD GROUP OF EX-OFFENDERS SPEAKS TRUTH TO PRISON SYSTEM
 

Star date: 2nd September 2018

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER AND BREAKING THE CYCLE

A new group called Breaking The Cycle, made up of ex-offenders and those who have had friends and family in jail, is speaking truth to power to improve prisoners' families support services in Greater Manchester.

They've already visited Risley prison and have come up with recommendations, with Styal and Wymott prisons next in line... "It's about reducing crime" says Jason from Breaking The Cycle.

Full details here...


We're at the Broughton Trust HQ in Lower Broughton and everyone agrees that the 'throw the key away' attitude isn't working. People in jail are re-offending on release, families are suffering from a lack of communication and offenders themselves are seeing their mental health deteriorate from lack of a link with their kids...

"When men need to access or see their children there's no-one they can turn to in the prison system, so a lot are committing suicide and I've seen it with my own eyes" says Jasen, an ex-offender himself, now working with a new group Breaking The Cycle to try to improve things.

"This is about keeping the family tight" he explains "You're releasing people back into the community, and if they've got no regard for community they're going to commit crime again and there's going to be more victims. It's about reducing crime."

What is unique about this project is that the governors of Styal, Wymott and Risley prisons have commissioned the team, via the Broughton Trust, to do reports, along with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Phoenix Futures. It seems that they want to improve prisoners' families support services for men and women in jail, and want feedback from those with lived experience.

"They've asked for the report to be done, and want to take fifty per cent of our input and fifty per cent of what they have, which is better than the usual 99.5% their way and half a per cent of our input, so it must be a good thing" adds Stuart, another ex-offender who was homeless when jailed and homeless on release, with no support.

Both Stuart and Jasen have seen the system fail first hand, while the third member of the group, Melanie, knows people in jail and currently works as a volunteer with homeless people. The two issues overlap. Indeed, the team are also working on the Housing First and Standing Together projects.

"Action needs to be done, so there's no more smokescreens and people need to pull their finger out and do their jobs" she says "They say in the statistics that they're doing this and that but we see the reality and nothing is getting done.

"Anyone who wants to speak their truth and wants their story to be heard can share it with us" she adds "It's about getting the person to have a better life and not keep re-offending. Doors are being opened, and people with experience are helping with that understanding; they can trust the people they are speaking with. And these stories have to be listened to because people are suffering.

"There should be more support from people getting paid to support" she explains "These charities are coming in and getting the money to help the people but people are not getting the help. It's about time they stopped making money off the individual person and have a person with compassion doing what they are supposed to do."

As well as collecting stories and experiences of both those who have been through the prison system and their families, the team is also visiting prisons and a trip around the family centre at Risley has already produced a list of 16 points for improvement.

These range from recommending Skype video messaging between prisoners and their children, to better family visits booking systems, to more access to phones to contact families.

They've also recommended new courses for inmates, including community awareness, parenting awareness and home care and budgeting courses. And want the £3.50 per sandwich price reduced for visiting families, plus more updated toys in the family centre, better information notice boards and more diverse books for those speaking languages other than English.

Melanie argues that, bar a lick of paint, little had changed in the family visiting centre at Risley since she visited an inmate ten years ago.

"We're hoping things will change once we've put report in" says Stuart "We're trying to make things better for family visits within the prison system to keep family ties and connections. When I was in, I couldn't get hold of my family because I didn't have enough money to buy phone credit or couldn't get to one of the three phones on the corridor. It does your head in.

"I also know people who have hung themselves because they couldn't get hold of their family or couldn't see their kids, and it shouldn't be happening" he adds "Young lads hanging themselves because they couldn't get in touch with their family? Things need to change."

Jasen agrees: "The support services for men and women in jail are not very good, and should be improved" he says "Even from what I've seen of America they're a bit more switched on; they do Skype videos and family visits, and Sweden and Switzerland too."

But will having a team speaking truth to power work?

"I think they are going to take us seriously" Jasen decides "I think they want to improve it for the families, because when you're locked up, your kids and family are suffering. Why should they have to suffer? I think they're realising that now."

Anyone with lived experience of the prison system who either wants to join the team or to share experiences contact Breaking The Cycle via the Broughton Trust 0161 831 9807.

Jasen wrote
at 17:42:31 on 12 September 2018
Aww I am really sorry to hear this, H.M.P. Garth, is like most Prisons, When it comes to Male Prisons and their Families, and the prison System when it comes to our families. We are in 2018 and the Prison System is still Punishing Prisoners and their families by making Contact between Dads and their Children proper difficult.. Which is not helping them to turn their life's around.. I hope he's off closed visits now and seeing his children again..

Kelsey wrote
at 08:47:31 on 03 September 2018
My partner is serving 15years in Garth heís done nearly 5years. He hasnít seen the children for nearly 5 month because heís on closed visits, he was kept on the 2 month longer than he should of because the staff kept declining his appeal to get of them. They didnít give him any reason as to why heís being kept on them they kept giving him new review dates and he had to just sit and wait for this day it come. When he got reviewed he would be declined again to come off them!! Itís ridiculous

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