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Together Women- Inside Out

Claudia Vince, about 3 weeks ago

I enjoy working at Inside Out and it does give you the feeling of 'normality' coming down to the office and working on administrative tasks, this has helped me maintain my confidence in an office based environment which I feel I may have lost if I had done other work within the prison. (Inside Out worker)

Established in 2006, the Together Women Project aims to support vulnerable women and girls with multiple complex needs and specializes with women offenders and women at risk of offending. It has launched an innovative social enterprise, working within HMP Askham Grange in York, focused on preparing women for employment in business upon release.

The project recreates a live office environment. It gives women an opportunity to complete work outsourced from local businesses and develop valuable, transferable skills that improve their employability. In conventional custodial settings, such an environment is rare. Inside Out provides women with a unique experience that otherwise would not be available to them. They are able to improve their administrative and IT skills whilst learning to liaise with the local business community. All of these skills are highly valued by employers. In addition, Inside Out provides a real-life work experience that employers are looking for in their candidates.

'Inside Out has given me a new lease of life.' Inside Out Worker

The success of the initiative lies in the work that is outsourced to the women from local businesses. This means women are actively involved in real-life work activities whilst they are in prison and by completing the work to a high standard, they are challenging many of the misconceptions that members of the public hold relating to people with criminal convictions. In turn, local businesses can see the value and talent that these women have to offer, which can influence them to re-evaluate their own recruitment processes to be more inclusive and open-minded.

As prison can be a daunting experience, having the opportunity to use the time productively and learn new skills is hugely beneficial to the mental and emotional well-being of those who are serving prison sentences. Schemes such as Inside Out help women build the confidence and self-esteem to recognise their potential and understand that they are able to improve their future prospects.

“Working at Inside Out helps you forget where you are for that short period of time and gives you back a sense of self-worth as it feels like a normal working environment." Inside Out Worker

Considering that HMP Askham Grange has one of the best records in the country for preventing prisoners returning to crime on release, the opportunities available there are helping the women turn their lives around. As well as Inside Out, the prison facilitates many other worthwhile opportunities, including coffee barista training and regular drama performances. Such a strong focus on rehabilitation ensures that the women of HMP Askham Grange feel supported throughout their sentence and confident that upon release, they will have the skills necessary to help them make positive changes to their lives and avoid committing crime for good.