I have only once been involved with a union, this was mainly due to the fact I found out my
then workplace did not have a union rep, so I took it upon myself to be one. I was rep for about two years and during this time I got involved in some minor negotiation between staff, management and board.
This past month has brought me back in mind of this type of negotiations, we set our agenda of “what do we want? when do we want it?” then take it to one of the many prison managers. So far this has been a relatively painless if somewhat slow process. We have a meeting and are told that (the manager) will look into it. Then almost without fail they will go on a weeks leave so nothing actually gets done. On their return it becomes all about negotiation and how much we hassle them.
Towards the end of August we had a workable programme, we had most of the resources, we had an empty room and we had designed all the forms we needed. Time to crack on with recruitment for our initial programme!
We got the guy who runs the prison radio station to design an advert for us, he got some of the lads involved in the station to make our recruitment advert, and it works really well. We are waiting to have a slide show presentation designed for the static screens that are dotted about in all the main halls (wings).
We have designed a referral form and are handing them out to the usual suspects in terms of agencies and staff (youth work, NHS services, AA and various SPS staff who run programmes). We met with some guys for consultation and 5 of them said they were interested (one has been released but four are still interested) and we have met a couple of guys who have been refered by NHS. The current list of folk interested in attending out “Taster Session” is seven, which after only a week of active recruitment is encouraging. We have had a few more referrals over the last few days too, but I am not including them as we havent met them yet.
Another key tool in our recruitment and advertising armoury is the wrist bands. The silicon bands come in four colours with Mentor on one side and Breaking Out on the other.
The bands are:
White- come to a taster session to find out more about us
Yellow- join the 12 week peer ed programme
Black- join the development group
Dayglo- come to a peer led alcohol workshop
One of the first question’s that we were asked by our first two referrals was “can we get one of them bands?” mwahaha my cunning plan to create a demand is already well under way. Why none of the other agencies have ever thought of using them is beyond me?
So all of this added a bit of weight to our final approach to the managers in terms of needing things to be in place. We needed keys and key training, ID numbers so we could get ID badges and access our prison e-mail, we needed furniture in our room, we needed a couple of cabinets so we can lock away stuff in our room. We needed other folk to stop using our room, we needed our list of resources checked off and brought into the prison (scissors??????? you can’t have scissors). We also need a phone and a computer in our room.
I’m sure there is other stuff that I’ve forgotten too.
So in a rather negative meeting with two of the managers, one was saying “give them what they want” and the other was saying “no we can’t do this and wont do that” we left with not much hope of things being done for our deadline of 1st September. Then for some bizarre reason the rather negative manager decided he liked the cut of our jib and would see us right! By the end of last week we had everything done apart from the phone and computer (which in a prison timescale amounts to the actual bending of the space-time continuum).
So at the beginning of september we have everything we need to run our programme, we have guys interested in joining, guys interested in a taster session, we have advertising and all the usual suspects are aware of us and what we are doing.
I found out today that the SPS alcohol awareness worker has already stolen one of my ideas (actually teaching a bit of basic anatomy so people know more about alcohols effects on the body). Already in our first week of being based in Polmont we are making changes!
We still have a long way to go and a few battles to win but, it seems like the Scottish Prison Service is onboard and willing to at least give us some ground.
For Shona and I it’s finally goodbye to long hours spent over PC and laminator in the office and onto doing what we both do best… working with young people, bring it on!
Serving three years