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



COMMENDEE 2017-18: Ruth is a Substance Misuse Team Leader at HMP/YOI Thorn Cross, and receives a Commendation for being ‘a beacon of light’ and contributing, through her skill and dedication, to one of the lowest drug rates in the country.

Ruth Cropper works as a Substance Misuse Team Leader for ‘Change, grow, live’ (Cgl), a charity devoted to helping people change their lives, in HMP/YOI Thorn Cross. She has made an extraordinary impact there, especially through her prisoner mentor scheme, helping give Thorn Cross one of the lowest drug rates in the country. An HM Inspector of Prisons report called Thorn Cross ‘a Beacon of Light’ in this area, offering some of the best provision they have ever seen.

Initial nominator Andy Dent, Custodial Manager at Thorn Cross, calls Ruth “the epitome of a ‘people person’.” Her substance misuse peer mentor team has been trained to run the ‘front of house’, and work within the service provision. Their duties include harm reduction advice to all prisoners entering or being released from Thorn Cross.

Ruth has also “worked relentlessly” to develop and support a new wellbeing unit, which includes meditation sessions, ‘Off load’ therapies run by the Warrington Wolves Rugby league team, games nights, and bespoke gym sessions to promote a gentler approach to exercise.

Ruth and her team have had great success and are extremely proud of the regular feedback they receive. Ruth has developed a ‘wall of success’ to display real life good news stories from people who have changed their lives for the better. In short, says Andy, “Ruth is the genuine article, the good egg, the go to person and yet remains so humble.”

Butler Trust Local Champion Amanda Stirrup, People Hub Manager, says, “Ruth provides a truly integrated service in Thorn Cross that is at the heart of a significant proportion of our offender management work.” She praises Ruth’s “extraordinary passion to change lives”, noting Ruth’s “special gift to see the potential in many prisoners that have ‘burnt the proverbial bridge’ with other staff.”

One of the prisoners on her mentoring team wrote that “no matter how difficult things may get Ruth will always give it 100%, will go out of her way to help you…all the work we do as mentors is very pleasing and very rewarding for myself included. Ruth is always there if I need to talk; it is a real pleasure having her as my boss. Everyone says good things about her.”

Another wrote:

“During my recovery and rehabilitation journey, I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to work with some very inspirational people. None more so than Ruth Cropper. My first meeting with her gave me an instant insight into her empathetic, motivational, professional approach and attitude. I realised that my ambitions and commitment to change my life can be achieved by the sincere support and guidance generated by Ruth… myself and the other peer mentors feel like valuable components of a service which provides hope and strength.”

Acting Governor Mick Povall praises Ruth’s role in the Thorn Cross Rehabilitative Culture as that of “a true champion.” He adds that, “People all too often see kindness as weakness. Yes, Ruth is very kind and very caring and very outcome driven – but every prisoner who has received this attention will know, only too well, the huge expectations and hard work that Ruth demands in return for her commitment.”

Carl Roberts, Change grow live Service Manager, wrote in his testimonial:

“Quite simply Ruth is a highly compassionate, professional and diligent colleague. Fiercely committed and loyal to her vocation… Her work and the results she and her team are able to produce represent the archetypal examples of why rehabilitation within the prison estate can and does work.”

Ruth reports that “all our mentors have either been released with full time jobs or work as volunteers with community drug services.” Other success stories include “a supervisor of the build of the New Liverpool Hospital, a heavy machinery driver and numerous individuals into employment with the recycling lives project.”

Ruth’s latest project is a prison Farm Shop, where prisoners work serving both the community and other prisoners, selling furniture, greeting cards, foodstuffs and art work – all handmade by the prisoners.

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