Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2013-14: Head of Reducing Reoffending: for the promotion of restorative principles in the management, care and rehabilitation of offenders.
[Anastasia Selby gives her account of the work for which she won her Commendation]
Transforming Lives. Transforming Futures. Anastasia Selby was commended by the Butler Trust in 2014, for introducing Restorative Justice ethos and practice into HMP Thorn Cross, which included the development of an innovative Peer Mentoring Scheme.
A Peer Mentoring Scheme was introduced into Thorn Cross in 2007, with the aim of improving safer custody and reducing anti-social behaviour in the prison. Additional funds were secured in April 2012 from the Big Lottery Fund to further progress the scheme in prison and also to broaden the reach to young people in the community. The peer mentoring scheme has historically involved training prisoners providing information, advice and support to other prisoners. Peer Mentors receive in-house training, developed in conjunction with CHILD Line plus, have the opportunity to progress to a higher level qualification. The training focuses on developing skills such a listening, understanding, providing non-judgmental advice and support. Peer Mentors provide support to peers on a range of educational issues which may increase the vulnerability of prisoners whilst in custody, such as bereavement, relationship breakup and experiences of abuse. Peer Mentors also provide practical advice to prisoners about the prison and residential unit regime and routine, for example:
The scheme aims to develop prisoner empathy and compassion for others as well as developing their character, employability and active social and citizenship skills. In this way, peer mentors may provide positive role models to fellow prisoners as well as changing the mind-set of young people regarding crime and imprisonment. Indeed a unique and innovative feature of this Peer Mentoring Scheme, compared with other prison based peer mentoring schemes is its extended reach into the community. As well as undertaking voluntary and paid work placements, peer mentions frequently conduct Crime Reduction, presentations in Schools and other community setting about their experiences of prison, in the hope of encouraging young people to consider the consequences of breaking the law and thereby acting as a deterrent. In this sense, a strong restorative justice component forms part of the overall vision of the scheme. During the last two years the scheme has delivered 189 presentations to 6,999 young people.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Anastasia Selby’s ‘exceptional and innovative work’ on the peer mentoring scheme and restorative justice processes at HMP/YOI Thorn Cross has earned her a Butler Trust Commendation.
With ‘a great deal of drive, determination and persistence’, according to the establishment’s Head of Corporate Services, Michael Povall, Anastasia overcame a degree of skepticism among colleagues to steer the initiative towards the ‘excellent models in place today’.
Her efforts in developing Thorn Cross as a restorative justice prison have led to a ‘whole prison approach’ to restoring justice, in terms of both activities and culture. As a result, the prison is becoming a safer and more positive social community, with prisoners more aware of the consequences of their behaviour.
A series of initiatives have been key to Anastasia’s work. She introduced victim impact sessions, where victims come in from SAMMS (Support After Murder and Manslaughter) and the Prison Fellowship, to give talks about the impact of crime on themselves, their families and their communities. She facilitated restorative justice conferences between victims or their families and prisoners, and also between prisoners who have been involved in fights or assaults on one another.
Anastasia’s violence reduction workshops and peer mentoring scheme have both been effective in reducing anti-social behaviour, not only improving safety, but also helping prisoners to develop positive attributes, self-esteem and life skills. Her success in obtaining a lottery grant of £300,000 to develop the peer mentoring scheme has enabled project workers to be appointed, and led to valuable partnership working with other agencies to spread the work further afield into support with employment, housing, debt issues and restorative justice in other parts of the criminal justice system.
The peer mentoring scheme is now in great demand to give talks in the community to deter others from crime. An evaluation of the project by Sheffield Hallam University highlighted its significant progress and showed its wide reach into the community.
Ambitions for the project are continuing to grow. ‘We would like to see the mentoring preventive talks embedded in the education curriculum,’ says Anastasia, as well as being developed in other prisons and leading to increased employment of prisoners.
For more information: contact HMP Thorn Cross
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