Sky News highlighted the essential role that UK bosses can play in the rehabilitation of former prisoners in a 10 May report on the company Recycling Lives.  Based in Preston, the firm processes electronic waste and scraps cars, and since its launch in 2012 has helped hundreds of ex-offenders get their lives back on track.
Its CEO William Fletcher says in the report: “The ethos of the business is different. We’re here to focus on commerciality and we are very keen on having an entrepreneurial way to how we do business. But at the same time we want to put back directly into the community. And for us, it was a very simple idea to think, actually, one of the best ways of doing that is in the rehabilitation of offenders.”
He adds: “We have great employment opportunities for people who are willing to put the effort in, work hard, learn a skill and proceed and progress in life. In return we get incredibly loyal employees and because of the wraparound service that we have, in terms of the support we offer ex-offenders, we get a lot of loyalty back, which then helps our business to grow.”
Former soldier Ian Green, who fell into a pattern of offending following his exit from the services, is provided with comfortable accommodation as part of his employment at the firm. He says: “To be able to come here and concentrate on turning your life around, and having the facilities and the management team to do that, is huge.
“Adjusting from a prison cell is hard enough, but to come here and just see a room like this, I felt like break-dancing. It was massive for me to be able to enjoy this room and the time I had in here and the time I had at the Recycling Lives charity centre.”
Of his previous time as an ex-serviceman, he noted: “I was hitting a brick wall every time I tried something. It was only when I met Recycling Lives that they showed me a doorway I could enter through with their help.”
The firm’s charity chief Alasdair Jackson explains: “It’s a whole process – work is one part of it, accommodation is another part of it … pastoral care, it’s vital. One without the other doesn’t work. You need all of those different facets to create the programme that means the men have got the best chance of succeeding at the end.”
Earlier this month, it emerged that the government’s 2014 Transforming Rehabilitation scheme – which privatised the probation service – had a negative impact upon rehabilitative services.  Could companies succeed in an area where the machinery of government has evidently stumbled?
The Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Jackson rightly draws attention to the holistic nature of what’s required to back someone in a personal transformation. The support is necessary for keeping the individual in that job. The accommodation, the ongoing mentoring and the recognition that their needs are going to be quite different all help to build a context of security for the role.”
She notes: “So many people who are not offenders will have access to a common type of social support network that is often taken for granted. They won’t have to worry about where they’ll be able to live. They’ll be able to come home weighed down with the day’s trials and tribulations, and rely upon the wise counsel of friends and family members – all of whom will be able to relate to those challenges and difficulties, as they have similar jobs in similar organisations.
“But if you don’t have that support network, who do you talk to? Who can you call upon to put what seems like a lurking, big-deal issue into perspective, or to help you see a problem from a fresh angle? Or to simply have someone beside you who will listen sympathetically to your anxious self and understand where it’s coming from?”
Cooper points out: “Cultural gaps are tricky enough for non-offenders to negotiate. For example, people who haven’t worked in a large organisation before often feel like they’re entering a totally alien culture when they’re moving across from a smaller firm. They don’t understand certain procedures, and they don’t understand key policies that may actually exist to protect workers’ rights, but initially seem unreasonable or bureaucratic. So those people will often need a lifeline of support to make sense of those things.”
She adds: “In the context of ex-offenders, whether it’s a public-sector or private-sector organisation in charge of the rehabilitative process, what really counts is a recognition that the help provided should be much more than a job offer – and that it must therefore be appropriately resourced. That resourcing may have material components, but should above all comprise engaged mentoring from someone who is interested in your life, wants you to succeed and – most importantly – has time to listen.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on mentoring
Image of prison interior courtesy of trabantos, via Shutterstock
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