Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2019-20: A former Resettlement Manager at HMP Oakwood, Pauline is Commended for setting up ‘Restart Enterprise’, a charity offering support to prisoners on release, from a community hub and food bank, to transport and accommodation.
Pauline is the Founder and CEO of Restart Enterprise, a charity based in and around HMP Oakwood. She receives a Commendation for her work, which is specifically designed to facilitate the more effective release of prisoners. Formerly the Resettlement Manager at Oakwood, Pauline has developed a range of highly effective and focused interventions, from a community hub and food bank to transport and accommodation.
Pauline outlines the thinking behind the Restart Enterprise charity she founded and runs:
“The vision is to provide a variety of services for those impacted by imprisonment and thrives on the involvement of local communities, current and ex-service users, families of residents, ex-residents and local agencies. This breadth of expertise means the services are relevant, accessible, current and integrated to provide a consistency of support and contact.”
She details some of the services ‘Restart’ provides. The Shuttle service “allows patrons to travel to the prisons at an affordable rate. This is a not-for-profit mode of transport which alleviates the high cost of travel by offering a community bus service at a subsidised rate, meaning families are able to visit more often than would otherwise be the case, reducing the risk of relationship problems. It also provides a flexible, affordable and trusted transport solution for many clients being discharged who are vulnerable, isolated or financially challenged.”
Meanwhile, Restart’s Food Share “provides emergency food and support to families in need due to their loved ones and main wage earner being in prison. Ex-residents being released to hostels or shared accommodation face the added pressure of stocking up on food and essential household sundries which further reduces their available funds at a critical time in their resettlement journey. Our food share service means no-one leaves the prison (ex-resident or families) without basic supplies to sustain them until they have a source of revenue.”
Then there’s the social enterprise Café, which offers “free refreshments to those released every morning and also their loved ones so they have a convenient space to interact for the first time outside the confines of the prison as well as providing a service for visitors. We utilise donated food in order to provide affordable meals for our clients and their families/children offering a ‘pay what you can’ approach for those in the greatest need.”
Meanwhile, explains Pauline, “Our Catering Service utilises the resource of men released on temporary license. As well as being a source of revenue to support other services, it also acts as a catalyst for training and employment opportunities allowing participants to transition into the hospitality industry.” In addition, “Our Clothing Bank offers clothing gathered from various sources within the community for released residents.” Further, “Our free holdalls and suitcases help negate potential negative attention on release.” As well as all that, Pauline explains that “I also offer supported accommodation to four men released from prison, they are doing well and have not reoffended.”
It’s quite a list. Initial nominator and Oakwood external customer, Edwin Lucas, of Rethinking Recycling Limited, recalls that he was “bowled over by what I saw in the centre. It was the nicest centre I have seen in England and it was down to Pauline. She showed me round and I saw innovation and care and interest and cleanliness, and customer focus. The building is open from 08:00 when she welcomes in families of prisoners to be released that day. She offers them a safe place to sit and wait for the prisoners to be released.”
Once the prisoners are released, Edwin adds, “they go to the community hub to meet their friends and relatives. She gives them the chance to phone probation and housing and to have a beverage. She helps with transport to Wolverhampton station at a reduced cost on one of her minibuses. I think she bought one out of her own funds. Pauline cares… She has done amazing things.” Edwin concludes his nomination of Pauline, emphatically:
“She is amazingly charismatic. She wants to help people not just in a casual way but REALLY HELP them.”
Butler Trust Local Champion and HMP Oakwood’s Visits and Family Interventions Lead, Sandy Watson, concurs, and sets out some background: “Pauline used to work at HMP Oakwood as a Resettlement Manager and through this work she became very frustrated that the system did not allow for fully supporting men who were released. She decided to create a charity aimed at giving individual support to each resident leaving – whether that was to help them find accommodation, provide toiletries, help with job applications or other services they might need.”
Since then, Pauline has developed the ‘Hub’ in the Visitor Centre, providing a catering service, a food bank, a mini-bus shuttle to pick up families and so much more, says Sandy. “Wherever Pauline sees a need she aims to fill it.” Sandy adds:
“Pauline is exceptional. She is truly passionate about the work she does in supporting residents and their families, so much so that she was willing to give up her salary and take the associated risks in developing this new venture. Pauline is inspirational. She has inspired a large group of people around her to catch the vision and support her in Restart. Pauline is able to channel this enthusiasm into giving people a vital role to play in the project so that staff too feel empowered.”
Sandy notes that Pauline “has also brought life into the prison’s Release on Temporary License – offering real working opportunities for men and then finding them jobs on release. One such resident, after spending two years working in the Centre has now a full-time job working with the youth of the city… She treats all as equals – setting forward a precedent that all volunteers (she has no paid staff) no matter which side of the wall they come from are treated the same.”
Sandy says “it is astonishing to see what Pauline has personally given up for her vision – I stand in awe of her.” Many colleagues also wanted to share their own testimonials. One, a Pathway Centre Manager called Pauline “the personification of a loving, caring person who always puts others first. She invests in everyone she meets and helps them achieve their full potential.” Another colleague said Pauline “is passionate about giving residents second (and third) chances; she believes and has faith in them.”
Oakwood’s Head of the Offender Manager Unit says, “Pauline excels in showing how passionate she is in developing men to make the right and significant changes in their lives. Pauline has always shown that she cares about the work she does with the focus on helping prisoners to progress.”
Residents added their own warm remarks, too. One says, “When I started working for Pauline, I always knew I would learn a lot but I never realised how much she would help me learn about myself.” Another says, “Our family has benefited from the Food Bank and all the kindness we are shown by the Restart Team”, while a third added a memorable remark:
“Pauline once said to me ‘If your back is bent then others will climb on it’. From that day I have walked tall.”
HMP Oakwood’s Director, John McLaughlin, also shared an enthusiastic testimonial. He says:
“Pauline Miller-Brown is a truly amazing lady and an inspiration to everyone she meets… No one I know is making such a wide contribution to those impacted by incarceration.”
Pauline herself is, as one might expect, generous to those around her helping with the project – and concludes with some inspiring words:
“I have been blessed with the support of my husband, family, friends, HMP Oakwood, the community and organisations, offering a multiplicity of in-kind, financial and mentoring support, not to mention my volunteers who are all committed and passionate… As the founder, I am ONE, with all the support, I am MANY. TOGETHER we are a community addressing recidivism and fighting to reduce reoffending.”
With thanks to HMP Oakwood, to initial nominator and Oakwood external customer Edwin Lucas of Rethinking Recycling Limited, Butler Trust Local Champion and Oakwood’s Visits and Family Interventions Lead Sandy Watson, to colleagues, residents and service users, and to Oakwood’s Director John McLaughlin, for their contributions.
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