Gareth Evans, about 4 years ago
In prison, there are a few good examples of mentoring that makes life inside a little more bearable. There are subject or skill specific mentoring programmes which aim to guide people through education, industry training and entrepreneurship. There are also listening schemes which train people in prison to help others cope with some of the emotional difficulties in their environment. With such a range of mentoring programmes within prison, there are vast opportunities for people to find individualised and effective help for a range of things so that men and women in prison are supported. This series will highlight the variety of focuses and impacts of mentoring schemes for, and by, ex-offenders.
Mentorship offers some of the most effective 'through-the-gate' support in which people can rely on guidance during and after release. For example, The Longford Trust offer help to continue with higher education for those who have begun or reignited a journey of learning. Blue Sky Development and Regeneration provide work experience placements and industry coaching.
Dedicating your time to helping someone else grow is a powerfully good feeling. It is therapeutic and fulfilling. Whilst offering befriending support to people in prison has a clear advantage for those receiving the support and- without too much abstract thinking- wider society, the concept of peer mentoring in prisons is something empowering to both parties. Shannon Trust, for example, trains people to use their own skills to help others learn to read and write. As mentioned above, listeners are trained by the Samaritans to offer an ear to and sympathise with people in difficult situations often previously experienced by the mentor. Similarly, programmes like RApT and AA have group meetings in many prisons where people at different stages of dealing with alcohol or substance misuse strengthen their peers' resolves.
The idea of an interdependent relationship between 'mentor' and 'mentee' goes quite a way in representing how transformative this interaction can be. For those who feel lost, for whatever reason, the feeling of knowing that you are not alone and that others have overcome the same difficulties is deeply important. It can provide not only practical support but also a drive to tackle problems with enthusiasm and hope. For those supporting people, validation for their worth comes from seeing people benefit from their assistance, their effort. It can feel like, despite whatever has happened before, we can still do something positive and worthwhile. When trying to reimagine your life 'after prison', it is imperative to have points of reference where you have demonstrated good skills and virtue. We hope our presentation of programmes provided such points of reference will inspire and amaze you.