Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2014-15: Jody, a Supervisory Officer at HMP New Hall, is Commended for her work, much of it in her own time, in developing and providing support for female sex workers. [This Commendation is supported by the Wates Foundation.]
Jody Trask, who works as a Supervisory Officer of two wings at HMP New Hall, is recognised in this year’s Butler Trust Awards for her outstanding work, much of which she undertook in her own time, in helping sex workers in custody, as part of a program of outreach and support activities she has developed and driven from the outset.
Sex workers in custody (SWIC) are a particularly vulnerable group, as nominator Susan Field of Reducing Reoffending at HMP New Hall, notes. Jody, she says, has ‘broad shoulders’ and deserves recognition for “caring for a group of very vulnerable people in our society that are not a ‘popular’ group to care for in the public eye.”
Having taken several courses related to this group, Jody was inspired to help this but first had to build up a rapport and trust with these women in order to even identify who they were. Quite how successfully Jody has done this is revealed by the fact that women at HMP New Hall now approach her through ‘word of mouth’.
Given the serious nature of this work, Jody has also been involved in dealing with allegations of violence. Her connectedness with this group can lead to non-trivial consequences. Jody is highly regarded for her alertness in this regard, and in a recent case, vital intelligence she had been entrusted with led directly to six people being convicted, and given lengthy sentences, for grooming young children to engage in sex acts.
Jody is also committed to getting appropriate support for these women from agencies they trust and respect, most of which are external. And because many of the women in custody are not local, this involves forging effective relationships with a very wide range of partners across the country.
As Jody points out, the problems these women face are often complex, and issues may include mental and sexual health, families, housing, drugs, counselling and safeguarding children. Sex workers in custody often face deep and difficult patterns, and sometimes controlling pimps who use drugs to reinforce those patterns. Jody is now developing a pioneering ten week course for these women which, if successful, she would like to see extended into other women’s and men’s prisons.
Her commitment to sharing also led Jody to organise a key conference on this subject which was attended by an impressive variety of external agencies. On a more local basis, she has produced a booklet, available in the prison library for offenders and staff alike. Much of its content is derived from the often very distressing stories of the dozens upon dozens of women she has supported. These include women who have been trafficked or groomed as well as subjected to serious violence.
It says much that prisoners and staff who have picked up this booklet have gone on to explain to Jody that, having read some of these women’s stories, they now look at sex workers in a different light.
Another popular initiative Jody has developed is a Drop In Centre, which outside partner agencies attend. Because of her responsibilities as a Supervisory Officer, much of Jody’s referrals work has taken place in her own time “and during dinner”. It’s a testament to Jody’s caring and passionate engagement to read just a fraction of what her work might involve. It could include arranging for an outside agency to pick up a newly released prisoner (instead of a pimp who might immediately bring them back to a cycle of drugs and prostitution), then checking up with outside agencies at a later date to find out how her former charges are progressing, and keeping those agencies informed if they do return to custody are just a few of the elements.
As Jody points out, part of her drive to extend her pioneering work lies in recognising that Human Trafficking & Grooming are, at last, acquiring the kind of high profile they deserve – and we hope this recognition by the Butler Trust will help facilitate her outstanding efforts on behalf of this especially vulnerable group.