Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2011-12: SO Withers is commended for his excellent work on secondment from HMP Bristol to the Integrated Offender Management Scheme, which targets prolific offenders in the city.
[Peter Withers gives his account of the work for which he was awarded a Commendation]
An example of good practice within our prison came about as a result of Integrated Offender Management (IOM), the project I was given a Butler Trust Commendation for, involved a particularly chaotic drug misusing offender, for the benefit of this exercise I will call him Ben. Ben perpetually received short custodial sentences, which meant he fell outside the statutory obligations of the various Criminal Justice agencies, such as probation and the substance misuse team. IOM (known in Bristol as IMPACT) comprises of probation, police, substance misuse and prison staff working together on the principle of ‘resources follow risk’, Ben was identified as high-risk of re-offending, therefore, he would get the attention, scrutiny and intensity of resources within IOM to reduce this risk of re-offending.
Ordinarily, sentences of 6 months or less in custody would mean agencies within the criminal justice system, having insufficient time to engage with Ben, identify any immediate needs and develop a risk management plan, as a type of contract going forward. My work involved doing just that, as I was working shoulder-to-shoulder with other criminal justice partners in the community, one benefit of information sharing meant that when opportunities such as Ben came around, they were never missed.
Within 3 days of Ben arriving into custody, I had arranged for myself and partner agencies to meet with him in his residential prison unit, practically outside his cell door, whereby we introduced ourselves, started building relationships, and talking through his options for interventions both in custody and on release. Ben felt wanted, probably for the first time in a long while, and supported in the challenges that lay ahead, challenges although realistic, would require guidance and support, that if successful, even in the short-term, would inevitably result in deterring him from offending to feed his previous problematic lifestyle.
Ben’s trust continued to grow as further visits to him on custody reinforced our original objectives, giving him confidence, that his cycle of offending could be broken, his Risk Management Plan was actually becoming something of a reality. As a key contributor to his plan, Ben was specific about his own high-risk situations, from which each partner agency was able to offer contributions to minimise that risk, and manage such potentially vulnerable situations for Ben.
All this work and engagement Ben undertook on a purely voluntary basis, moreover in my opinion as a result of the skills and support presented by the various IOM partners to bring him on board, I had as much belief in him as he did in me that, if these opportunities could be fulfilled he would really be best placed on the road to recovery. Further reality came to life for Ben as I met him from the prison gate on the day of release, and with a colleague from IOM, we escorted him to his first appointment on release. Although not completely crime free, today Ben experiences less of a chaotic lifestyle, resulting in him spending loner in the community than he does in custody, which is a complete turnaround for Ben.
[The following article appeared in issue 4 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Peter Withers, offender supervisor at HMP Bristol, has received a commendation for his work on Bristol’s Integrated Offender Management Scheme (IMPACT). The innovative scheme involves prison service staff, the police, probation and volunteer agencies in working together to reduce crime and increase public safety in the city. Its aim is to identify prolific offenders and work with them on all issues of their life – housing, health, family, employability skills – to stop them from turning to crime.
With his experience of working both in prison and the community, Peter has a holistic view of the offender and their resettlement needs and the knowledge to deliver timely interventions. He is particularly skilled at developing relationships that bypass stigma and prejudice and seizes every chance for positive intervention.
The scheme has been running in Bristol for three years, during which reported crime has gone down by 14,000 reported offences, and it is expanding to other areas. Peter’s ‘incredible passion and belief in what he delivers’ has been recognised by his governor as a major contributor to IMPACT’s success.
For more information: contact HMP Bristol