RISLEY Prison has pioneered an event to help inmates improve their chances of rehabilitation.

Prisoners were given a taste of the sorts of services available to them during the ‘Community Partnerships Open Day’.

It was part of the category C prison’s ethos – spearheaded by governor Bob McColm – that everyone is entitled to a second chance.

Mr McColm said: “We can only change people’s lives by exposing them to different things. It is about getting prisoners to think differently and for people to recognise what makes someone violent or take drugs and then go on to commit crime.

“There are always triggers and it is about giving people choices. We won’t change people just by locking them up. We will change them by engaging with them.”

The aim of the partnership is to cut prisoners’ re-offending when they leave jail by making them address the issues likely to cause them to break the law again.

Stewart Hopkinson, the prison’s head of employment, learning and skills, helped to co-ordinate the partnership day.

He said: “In a short space of time we have made some very significant changes at Risley and this event is intended to show what it takes to manage an offender in custody.

“It is a common perception that prisoners spend their time in cells on a wing watching TV but that is nonsense – they are out at work every day, going to education classes and accessing advice services.

“We are here to challenge people’s behaviour and prevent them re-offending and that takes a multi-agency approach, which is very important for staff to understand as well as the public.”

Schemes to help inmates while in prison as well as preparing them for release were showcased at the event on Wednesday.

These included advice on dealing with debt, accommodation, dealing with drug and alcohol problems, and family and partner issues.

Representatives from a range of external and internal organisations, such as The Samaritans, JobCentrePlus, housing agencies, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, counselling services, Respect and many others attended the open day.

ACCOMMODATION is a key issue in preventing prisoners from re–offending.

A spokesman for housing services said: “A lot of the time when people are homeless and on the street that is when they commit crime so if you get them housed and with the right support they will be less likely to offend.

“On leaving prison there are many options available to them ranging from approved premises such as bail hostels, supported housing such as night shelters, private renting, housing associations and their families.”

ABUSE, bereavement and anger management are the main areas prisoners seek help with from the counselling services available to inmates.

Denise Kelly, one of five counsellors at Risley, said: “We help people with any issues they may have and counselling has proven to be very effective in reducing re–offending.

“Many of the prisoners have been abused, whether that is sexually, psychologically, emotionally or financially and then got into trouble, quite often as a result of alcohol or drugs, which they have used to help them deal with their issues.

”We explore their problems and help them to work things through.”

TWO weeks before a prisoner is due to be released, advisers from the JobCentrePlus contact inmates to ensure those without employment receive help finding a job.

Vanessa Storey from JobCentrePlus said: “Those without employment will have a new claims application pack waiting for them at their local job centre within 48 hours of their release and we work with them to find them employment.

“There is a joint partnership across the board to help reduce re–offending and we are part of that process.”

DEBT is a major concern for inmates and advisors from the Citizens Advice Bureau come into Risley once a week to help prisoners with their finances.

Mary Gordon, an outreach adviser, said: “We help them primarily with debt issues and can assist them to take bankruptcy proceedings.

“We give advice on benefit entitlement and help to alleviate money worries, which often contribute to crime.”

POPS (Partners Of Prisoners and families Support group) offers help to those with a connection to a prisoner in Risley to cope with the stress of their arrest, imprisonment and release.

A helpline is available for those in need of advice or support and can be used to report concerns regarding a prisoner’s welfare.

Emma Teale, co–ordinator, said: “People come to us with many concerns they may have about their loved ones.

“We help with information about debt, jobs, drugs, behavioural problems and link in with the other agencies offering this advice.”

RESPECT is an organisation set up by staff for staff in the prison to eliminate racism.

Paul Hancox, racial equality officer, said: “We do get a lot of complaints of racism and my job deals with prisoners and staff, substantiating these claims.

“The work we do in the community and the prison has gone a long way to break down barriers and see an improvement.”

RISLEY is undergoing performance improvement following an operational assessment last November that made 365 recommendations for progress.

The PIP (Performance Improvement Planning) team has worked hard at Risley to make these improvements.

Neely Jillings, PIP co-ordinator, said: “This week there are only 11 red areas of non-compliance from an original 233.

“Communication has been a huge part in making these changes and getting things right.

“Offender management and catering have both seen big improvements. Prisoners now have options for what they want to eat and can get their five fruit or vegetables a day from the menu.

“Safer custody has also seen huge improvements in making sure the support mechanisms are there for prisoners who need it such as those who are at risk of self harm and suicide.

“There is also a big improvement in purposeful activity for prisoners, which is an important part of reducing offending when they return to the community.”

SAFER custody officers are responsible for reducing suicides, self harm and violence within the prison.

Mick lathwood (Gareth – it needs a capital ‘l’ but my key has broken), safer custody manager, said: “We are introducing anti-bullying strategies to reduce the amount of violence in the prison.

“We work closely with the Samaritans to provide support for prisoners in crisis. We also link in with mental health providers.

“We have a ‘Keep Safe’ line that anyone with concerns about a prisoner in Risley can ring. Prisoners being bullied can also ring the line.

“The number of suicides and prisoners self-harming is falling as a result of better management of risk and the amount of bullying has been reduced by two-thirds.

“Prisoners get into debt with each other with tobacco and then are at risk of violence so we tackle this behaviour to stop them from getting into debt in the first place.

SAMARITANS come into Risley once a week to offer support to prisoners and also work alongside ‘listeners’ who can provide round the clock help for fellow inmates.

Trained by Samaritans listeners are often prisoners who are serving long sentences.

Risley currently has nine listeners who have signs hung on the doors of their cells to pinpoint who they are to other inmates.

A spokesman for Samaritans said: “We offer support to the listeners. Our two biggest calls are from prisoners who are about to be released and are scared about what life will be like on the outside and from those just starting their sentence.

“We get a lot of calls from prisoners who have had Dear John letters and bereavements.

“We are a listening service, we don’t provide advice but we can signpost things for people.”

SERVICES are available to foreign nationals at Risley, helping their families with immigration issues and communicating with the embassies.

Officer Stu Boddy said: “We keep in touch with their families and give them regular updates of appeal status and their deportation.

“There are currently 76 foreign nationals at Risley. We are involved in all aspects of their management and also help set them up in businesses when they return to their own country through funding under the official return scheme.

“Recently a man rang us from India to thank us for helping him set up a gym, there was a couple of men who returned to Nigeria and started a taxi business while another man went back to Turkey and he bought land to start his own dairy farm.”


Inmates serving indeterminate sentences for public protection form a large part of a prison population.

Of these: * 97 per cent are male * 16 per cent are aged 18 to 20 * 22 per cent are aged 21 to 24 * 62 per cent are aged above 25 * 86 per cent have thinking and behavioural needs * 78 per cent have lifestyle and associated needs * 76 per cent have education, employment and training needs * 62 per cent have relationship needs * 56 per cent need help with alcohol problems * 48 per cent have drug related needs.