Beyond Recovery has received high praise for its new violence reduction prison mentorship scheme, in partnership with Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit. Experts in this field agree that the programme is having significant impact; transforming the lives of young offenders and turning them away from crime.
FreeMinds FreePeople project
The ‘FreeMinds FreePeople’ project is for men aged between 18 and 25 who are currently serving or have recently been released from HMP Nottingham. Supporting them through specially designed programmes, it helps them to recognise their inner resources and their ability to change their attitudes and expectations.
Upon completion, many of the participants have shown positive changes in attitude and behaviour, including significantly decreased feelings and expression of anger and depression. One former gang member, who met his friend’s killer during the programme, described it as ‘a miracle’.
The former gang member told programme volunteers: “To start with, [the group] was a summary of what I thought I knew or got from previous groups, but this time I actually understood that I have a choice to make. For example, if someone annoys me, I have a choice.
“The last session taught me forgiveness. I was in the room with the same guy who killed my friend, but I did not recognise him. Whilst in the sessions I understood him as a person, I understood him for what he was as a person and I saw his remorse. I saw him as a human being, as one like me, not labelled as a “rival”.
“On a break he came and asked me “you don’t recognise me do you”? We shook hands. I never thought I would be in the same room with him and not hurt him.”
When asked to describe how it made him feel, the participant replied: “A miracle. This was a miracle. A heavy weight on my shoulder was lifted. It was like a closure. I realised that the moment I can see ‘the human’ in someone I automatically think “if I fight, I fight with myself”. What is the point? He is a human being like me, not labelled as “a rival”.
“The group I was in allowed me to be myself and to open up about my feelings without being judged. The environment allows us to be us, to be real, to be the person we are behind closed doors.”
An apprentice programme has been running alongside the scheme since it launched in November, training some graduates to become peer mentors. The aim is to nurture and develop four to six mentors within the prison environment. They are encouraged to support their peers and assist with study groups, both during their sentence and afterwards.
Paddy Tipping, chair of Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), said: “Although still in its infancy, the Violence reduction prison mentorship project is having dramatic results and changing the way these young men view the world and other people.
“What was once considered impossible or even too risky – such as encouraging rival groups to meet and share their experiences – has been achieved and this gives me so much hope for the future safety of our county. I fully concur with the participant’s description of this intervention as a ‘miracle’.
Jacqueline Hollows, founder of Beyond Recovery, said: “We have worked with over 500 people involved in the CJS since Beyond Recovery CIC started in 2015. Sometimes we’ve had a transformational impact like the one witnessed here. Both men involved in this story have had a huge shift in their views of the world. They are more humble and have more empathy.
“I continue to be in awe of what is possible with these guys when they start to realise their innate wellbeing. I think this has the potential to have a huge ripple effect on society and community. The other man in this story said: ‘today you saved someone’s life, because one of us would have not been here anymore if it had not been for this shift in our minds’.”
You can read the full press release from Nottinghamshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner here.