Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

HOWARD CRAVEN (HMP & YOI Parc)

HOWARD CRAVEN (HMP & YOI Parc)

AWARD WINNER 2016-17: Howard receives an Award for his inspiring work as a mentor to prisoners at HMP/YOI Parc, where he has worked for over a decade, drawing on his own experiences as a former offender and substance misuser, to help transform the lives of others. According to the prison Governor, Howard is “an exceptional member of our team”. [This Award is supported by Working Links.]

Howard Craven is an inspiring example of someone who has transmuted his own difficult experiences into inspiring mentorship at HMP & YOI Parc where, in turn, he has helped change other people’s lives for over a decade.

Corin Morgan-Armstrong, Head of Family Interventions at Parc, cites Howard’s work on a Transitional Support Scheme that won national accolades, along with a more recent project he helped found, the Endeavour Unit – the first prison unit in England and Wales for ex-servicemen and first time in custody offenders. “Earlier this year,” says Corin, “Howard met the Head of the British Army, General Sir Nicholas Carter who requested to visit the unit to see for himself the ground breaking work that Howard is central to.”

“Anyone who has worked for a reasonable period of time with offenders can see almost instantly how effective Howard is in communicating and motivating his clients, despite all the challenges that they present,” added Corin, who described meeting several professionals working for substance misuse agencies “who have quietly said to me, ‘that man changed my life’, referring to their own struggles which Howard had helped them come through.”

Corin says there are “countless examples” of prisoners who have disengaged only to have ‘a quiet word’ with Howard, in turn leading to “an epiphany… and the motivation to change is sparked.” He notes that “Howard manages all this with disarming humility.”

Howard, he explains, “spent prolonged periods of his early life on the opposite side of the criminal justice system… All of which goes to set Howard apart, not only in the metamorphosis he achieved in his own life, but that he has succeeded in doing the same with so many others.”

Phil Forder, Community Engagement Manager at Parc, describes Howard as “a man who has ‘been there and done it’” and recalls Howard explaining to a fellow member of staff “I do what I do because of what I was.” As Phil notes, “This honesty underpins everything he does. He sees things as they are and says it like it is. He has changed many people’s lives because of doing what he does, because of what he is.”

Phil explains that as an ex-offender and ex-substance misuser, Howard “works full time and tirelessly to help others who are struggling with similar problems. He teaches by example, as his earlier life was identical to many of those men he now works with. He has been stuck in those dark places that probably only one who has been there, fully understands. He is living proof that a prisoner can turn his life around and rebuild what many would regard as a lost cause.”

Phil notes that most might concentrate on their own personal achievement having got back on track, “but Howard has chosen to come back into prison to help others,” and “has gained a lot of respect from staff for the work he does as well as from the prisoners who relate to him as one of their own. I have not met a single prisoner who he has worked with who doesn’t sing his praises.”

One prisoner, Paul*, an ex-serviceman, says working with Howard “has definitely inspired me to change my life. His belief in me has been paramount to my progress. He really does care and will always do as much as it takes to ensure that any support I, or anybody else, needs is in place and most importantly…He genuinely wants us all to do well and succeed and that belief has often steered me through difficult times. He has enabled me to change my life, how can I ever thank him?”

Another, Tony*, describes how Howard meant that “for the first time I felt there was a glimmer of hope, a faint chance that I could get my life back. Since then Howard has been standing by my side… He is living proof of how to do things right. I cannot praise this man enough for what he does.”

Parc’s Education Manager Hayley Morris says Howard’s “passion for what he does is enormous…. Often acting as a bridge between staff and prisoners, his unique position allows him to say ‘home truths’ [and he] inspires others just by his very being there.”

Parc’s Direct, Janet Wallsgrove, was delighted to endorse Howard, describing him as “an exceptional member of our team” and adding, “I find Howard highly inspirational and I know that I am lucky to have him.”

Howard himself points out that as “the man who has been there and done it” prisoners “often engage with me first, rather than with the more traditional help available. I see myself as a link between the prisoner and the outside world.”

He also notes, incisively, how offenders’ families “are often the unspoken victims of crime and at the same time can be a major support in preventing re-offending.”

He tells all the men he works with, “You are not alone and I encourage you to keep in touch,” and tries to be available “when they need it no matter what time of day or night.”

Howard “would love to see more emphasis put on the transformative possibilities for ex-offenders to use their own experiences to help others.” As he points out, powerfully, “I am not the same person I was before. People can change. We are all on the same side, we all want a safer society. I would like us to work together more. I believe when you help one person in prison you are in reality helping many others in society.”

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