A Local Approach to Prison Resettlement

Improved Aftercare Support for Cheshire Prison Leavers
Written by James McDermott

Improved Aftercare Support for Cheshire Prison Leavers

Leaving prison with no plan in place puts people at high risk of overdose, relapse and an inevitable return to the criminal justice system. We know that a huge number of individuals get lost on release from prison before they have even got to their first probation appointment. For some years, it has been acknowledged that people leaving prison need to be closely managed and supported to reconnect with the community as a key means of reducing reoffending. People need the right support at the right time to stop them falling through the gaps.

In December 2020, we received funding from the Ministry of Justice Local Leadership and Integration Fund to pilot a new ‘localised’ approach to prison aftercare for people with substance misuse needs. Our bid (submitted jointly with our partners Change Grow Live), seeks to reinvigorate key elements of aftercare support (embodied in the former Drug Interventions Programme) to give people a better chance of succeeding on the outside. Critically this involves a tailored approach to aftercare support that takes account of the local environment and links people into local services and resources. We are piloting this approach in HMP Altcourse in Cheshire.

Assessing local need

Our research with local stakeholders found people with a current or previous history of substance misuse leaving prison in Cheshire were less likely to engage with clinical substance misuse treatment than the regional average. Low numbers of individuals were referred for support with non-opiates or alcohol when leaving prison. In addition, more than a third (32-29%), of those who did engage with services on release had no fixed accommodation.

Our tailored approach to this local need combines psychological and clinical support from our partners Change Grow Live and supported housing, behaviour change group work and recovery coach support from Emerging Futures. We aim to encourage people to enter treatment and turn away from crime.

Pre-release engagement

Key to the success of this pilot is work to engage men in the process prior to release. New ‘Connecting Communities Coordinators’ are co-located in the prison alongside prison staff where they engage with men for up to 12 weeks to assess their suitability for the pilot and ensure they know where they are going, what to expect and what will be expected of them.

Tailored release options

On release day, men are given a physical Pathway Plan, detailing next steps and local community support. Their Connecting Community Coordinator and a Rehabilitation Coach meet them at the gate where they receive either an enhanced package of onward facilitation, mutual aid and support, or intensive support in an Emerging Futures recovery house.

Early outcomes

Mobilising the pilot during the pandemic had its challenges: from recruitment to prison access to securing properties. Despite this, we managed to not only recruit, train and implement staff teams, but secured accommodation. This meant the first participants were able to settle in for Christmas together and take part in activities such as walks up Snowdon and cook-offs.

Future plans

Over coming months, we will secure more units of accommodation and increase the number of behaviour change groups. Those who progress well will have the opportunity to follow our academy pathway of five days’ intensive accredited coaching training, leading to part and potentially full time employment with us. As with everything Emerging Futures does, the pilot is about creating opportunities for change.