Voluntary sector coordination is essential
Clinks’ new (30 April 2018) report: The Good Prison makes the case that co-ordinating voluntary sector involvement in an establishment is critical to deliver safer and more rehabilitative prisons.
Between September 2016 and October 2017 Clinks supported voluntary sector coordinators to implement a bespoke model of voluntary sector coordination in three prisons (Dartmoor, Exeter and Guys Marsh). The report distils the outcomes of the project and makes policy and practice recommendations for prisons, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the voluntary sector working in prisons.
The approach was simple, a half time member of staff, employed by a voluntary sector organisations, was based in each prison to support better coordination of the voluntary sector. The staff member acted as a single point of contact in each prison and implemented a tailored model of coordination, reflective of the needs of the prison and its population.
This coordination contributed to improved safety and more effective rehabilitation and resettlement services in the three prisons through:
- Better coordination of voluntary sector provision which included mapping services and joining them up as well identifying gaps in provision
- Ensuring voluntary sector staff and volunteers understood the prison environment, population and regime adequately in order to deliver their services
- Enhanced knowledge of and access to voluntary sector support amongst people in prison
- Development of the strategic role of the voluntary sector in the prison.
The success of the project meant that the coordinators’ posts were extended beyond the one year pilot period by six months in all three prisons. The funding for this was provided by the prisons. The governors anticipated that the extension would generate further positive outcomes.
The Clinks report specifies four main outcomes from this improved co-ordination in prisons:
1: Create a more normalised, community-facing prison culture to support rehabilitation through:
- Bringing outside organisations in
- Involving people in prison in delivery
- Breaking down stereotypes.
2: Ensure services are timely and appropriately sequenced, including improved through-the-gate provision through:
- Improving access to rehabilitative services
- Assisting joined-up working.
3: Provide evidence of need and what works, including:
- Identifying duplication and gaps in provision
- Identifying and addressing the needs of people in prison with protected characteristics.
4: Contribute to a safer prison environment, including through:
- Improving information about and access to support and services
- Ensuring partners have good knowledge of safer custody processes and procedures
The report ends with a number of recommendations for prisons, HMPPS, HMI Prison and the voluntary sector. Perhaps the most important is the recommendation that HMPPS make funding available to support the coordination of the voluntary sector in every prison.