Updated: Jul 8, 2020
You could be forgiven for thinking that lads approaching their release date can’t wait to be ‘on the out’. Yet as the date draws near it is often met with more trepidation than anticipation. For some lads leaving prison life is a terrifying prospect, having to go through the transition from the community and clear routine of life behind bars back into the big wide world.
Freddie has grown up in care with an incredible 65 different placements and, put simply, he’s been in prison longer than he’s stayed anywhere else. As he said: “Jail is the postcode I’ve been at longest.” He settled into jail life, got to know the lads and officers on his wing who were more like a family perhaps than he’s ever known before.
Of course, Freddie’s release date came and he’s finding life on the out, and particularly living independently, a new and challenging experience. But, with his mentor’s help and encouragement, he is beginning to envisage what his life could be like.
Care and Attention
During their time in prison, lads get care and attention from the prison officers, prison chaplains and other professionals working with them. Having people invest in them is such a powerful thing, especially when you consider:
70% of young offenders come from lone-parent families
39% have been in care
72% have suffered some form of childhood abuse or neglect
Then, on release, these meaningful relationships and support are lost, and these young men face navigating life on the out, on their own.
In2Out Executive Director, Mark Screeton, explains:
“One of the real struggles is these young people have come into custody when they were 15 or 16. By the time they get out they’re either 18 already and legally adults or they’re very close to that. There’s a lot of expectation that they somehow will be well adjusted, well educated, know exactly how everything works and just be able to get on with things – and it’s just not true!
Photo byJoshua Earle on Unsplash
They have a huge mountain to climb. Many of them see that and that’s just what’s so daunting to them. They are not equipped to climb that mountain; they don’t have the experience and they don’t have people around them, generally, to guide them and learn from. That’s what In2Out is there for.”
A Sense of Hope
In2Out mentoring aims to help a young person navigate successfully through the tense period of release and resettlement.
After his release, Brian really struggled with the desire to return to prison, a place
where he felt a safety previously unknown and the stability of a familiar routine and the support of prison staff. However, with encouragement from his mentor, he bravely moved out of his comfort zone, worked on building his confidence and overcoming his low self-esteem. Over time, through regular meetings with his mentor and much support, Brian began to engage in social activities, even conquering his shyness to such an extent that he has been able to volunteer in the warehouse of his local Foodbank.
Mark goes on to explain: “The lads we work with all know that they want to change, that’s why they’re working with us, and they know that they can’t do that on their own. But the biggest thing they struggle with, I think, is that sense of hope that they can break away from their past and that they can set a new course and get their lives back on track.”
On meeting his In2Out mentor, Darren was very clear in his desire, saying, “I don’t want to go back to prison." Despite this sincerity, the complexity of his past and his journey to this point meant nothing was going to be straightforward. In fact, there were many inside and outside the prison that were not convinced that Darren was serious about change and expected him to fall at the first hurdle.
On release Darren faced huge challenges and there was concern that, however much he might want to change, his past might catch up with him all the same and throw him off course again. However, both he and his mentor persevered, with Darren able to discuss the consequences of his actions and take responsibility for his choices.
In2Out mentors play a vital role in speaking hope into the lives of our participants. Through their encouragement participants see that there are possibilities and that In2Out will be alongside them as they make their journey. Having been excluded and on the margins of society, we work with them to help them find their way back in.
Jimmy grew up in difficult circumstances. An unstable family life led to him being taken into care as a young teenager where sadly he encountered further trauma and loss. As his life spiralled out of control Jimmy became a prolific offender. We met him during his 12- month sentence at HMYOI Wetherby where, on release, he was assessed as being particularly vulnerable and at high-risk of reoffending. Statutory authorities, and Jimmy himself, predicted a quick return to custody.
Jimmy asked for support from In2Out as he recognised he needed help to change and make a fresh start. His mentor helped him find employment with a place on an apprenticeship and when things took a turn for the worst and he was at risk of becoming homeless, his mentor was able to get him back on track.
After a year ‘on the out’ Jimmy said with a big smile on his face, “This time last year when I was released from prison, I really thought I would have been back in by now.” Through Jimmy’s determination and the support of his In2Out mentor he managed to overcome the significant challenges he faced.