Could the Internet help deliver health information to young people who have been through the prison system?

This intriguing paper from the US looks at whether the internet might be a good way of delivering health information to young people on release from prison.

Admittedly it is a small survey – only 79 people – but it suggests in that community at least that there are high levels of access to the internet outside of prison and that accessing health information online could be seen as a positive way of engaging with personal health information.

It would be interesting to think about whether the young people we’re working with in the Breaking Out project expect to have access to the internet once they leave Polmont, and whether an online service might be one of the ways we could support their health behaviours once they are released.

Any thoughts?

Learning the lessons from the deaths of children and young people in prison

The Prison Reform Trust and Inquest have published what looks like an insightful report into the deaths of children and young people in prison.

Given our work in Polmont, and the work that we’re about to start with Alcohol Concern in looking at the links between alcohol use and entry into the criminal justice system, this report may have significant things for us to be aware of.

They point out:

The lives of children and young people in prison are characterised by social inequality; educational failure; drug, alcohol and mental health problems; experience of abuse, bereavement and neglect that go hand in hand with high offending rates. Their custodial experience exacerbates and compounds this vulnerability.

And quote studies which found that 39% of girls and 34% of boys had a problem with drugs on arrival in prison.

In looking at the cases of 98 young people who had died while in custody they found that school exclusion, ADHD diagnosis and drug and alcohol dependency “featured prominently”.

Download the report here.

The Cake File Part 2

Today is a red letter day for the Breaking Out project, we are officially live!

This week saw Shona Johnston join the Scotland team. Shona’s role is development officer for the Breaking Out project. Shona has previous experience of working with offenders within Edinburgh Prison. She worked for Phoenix Futures as an enhanced addictions case worker. Having someone with experience of working within a prison setting will be a great bonus for the project. So welcome aboard the good ship Mentor Shona.

Shona and I attended an event last week hosted by the Roberson Trust (one of our funders). The RT event brought together the five main RT funded prison projects. These projects are collectively known as Breaking The Cycle.

The event was attended by representatives of the BTC projects as well as a wide range of community and prison based agencies, SPS staff and managers and representatives from social work and the Scottish government. The event proved extremely useful, giving me a chance to present a synopsis of the project to the audience. I was approached by sevaral people who said they would happily support us at this, the key development stage.

Shona and I have been amazed at the speedy response we have had to our requests for meetings with some key stakeholders. I suppose on reflection that we are now seen as part of the Breaking The Cycle community which lends us credibility.

It was announced today that the Dynamic Youth Awards (a simpler version of the Youth Achievement Awards) will be accredited. This is great news for the project as these awards are self assessed which means your hosting body does not need to charge a moderating fee. Barnardo’s have agreed to sponsor us as an operating agency under their umberella. This means we will get all the training we need to run the awards free of charge and they will support us to develop our work to their own high standard.

The DYA were originally aimed at 10-14 year olds, but after much campaigning by many agencies, the upper age limit has been removed. This is great news for young people who have literacy and communication issues (60% of young men within Polmont have some form of communication issues from dyslexia to autism and all points between).

Using these awards also means we can get accreditation for much shorter periods of engagement, so getting a form of recognised accreditation will not rely on completion of the whole programme. 30 hours of DYA also counts as 2 of the 4 challenges for a Bronze level YAA, giving us a nice incentive for progression onto a higher level award.

The fact that we can self assess the awards will also cut down the time between completion and accreditation. A key factor with the awards is the fact that once a young person has finished their award work, there is a formal process of assessment between you and the umbrella organisation. Then the awards are presented at moderation events which are held 4-6 times per year. So a young person could be waiting several months before they actually get a certificate.  DYA will cut down this time considerably meaning we can assess award work and present at the next moderation event with no “middle man” holding up the process. A little confusing I know, but chat to me if you want more details.

After next weeks holiday, Shona and I will be trained to run the awards and we can register our project. A huge step forward. We also begin to meet with the key stakeholders, making those vital connections with the prison community. Shona will receive her prison training next Friday meaning we are both free to access the prison as required.

I’m currently looking for alcohol based activities that can be run with young people with communication issues. I also need examples of activities that can be used for personal development and self esteem building. If you have any ideas or experience, get in touch.



Hard Time- Part One of the Cake File

The passing of time in prison is a strange phenomena, all the time that hangs on the inmates must create a strange time/space/continuum ripple that in turn effects all those people who work in prison.  If you set up a meeting by phone or e-mail, often this agreement is completely forgotten by those inside. Sometimes they will remember to meet you but will turn up late and have forgotten your name. Getting anything done is also effected by what I have begun to refer to as “Slow Time”. Everything takes longer to get done for no apparent reason. Is it that workers in prison are just so busy they cant effectively manage their time? is it that the channels of communication are also effected by “slow time”?

Perhaps its just a way of life that people fall into, a bit like moving to Provence?

Baffling to me, but then I’m still on the outside looking in. I will however become “one of them” from the 1st of June 2012, so keep an eye on me. If I start to slow down almost to the point of coma… well, it will be too late, I will already have become one of them!

(just playing with the tools to find my way around)