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Case Study of a RECOOP volunteer - Karen Bond

I am a mature student studying for a BSc (Hons) in Criminology with Criminal Justice Studies at Plymouth University. I work for BCHA as a relief Project Worker at George House in Plymouth, which is a 46 bed, first stage homeless hostel. I have worked in various social care settings for the past 12 years – mostly in the homeless sector – so when my supervisor at George House mentioned the work Liz Ropschitz was doing with older prisoners in the Devon prison cluster, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

I had already done a lot of work with young people who were homeless or vulnerably housed and had become interested in the particular problems that they face when attempting to resettle into the community on leaving prison. The work that RECOOP is doing focuses on the difficulties faced by prisoners aged 50 and over – an age group which I had not had a lot of experience of working with. My local prison is HMP Dartmoor – and Liz was just about to pilot a resettlement scheme there so I was drafted in to assist her with this. With my 12 years of knowledge of Plymouth and Devon networks, I was able to signpost prisoners who were to be released locally – and for those who were going further afield, I was able to research the facilities and support agencies which would be available to them locally. Using recorded dramas, which cover many of the issues facing prisoners on release, we were able to discuss hopes and fears and allay a lot of “urban myths” which are rife in the prison culture. Since the course finished we have focused on what was good, what they would like more of, training up “resettlers” within the prison to carry on the programme and mentor other prisoners, while also continuing RECOOP’s core work in Devon delivering mental wellbeing work with the older prisoners through physical and mental stimulation, and relaxation.

The subject matter for my dissertation is the particular problems which face sex offenders on their release into the community, bearing in mind the strength of public opinion against them. As a wide variety of this category of prisoner comes to HMP Dartmoor, I have been able to spend a lot of time talking to people I may not otherwise have been able to meet. While I have not been conducting one-to-one interviews with the prisoners due to security constraints, I have been privileged as they have been extremely open and honest with me. The feedback we have had from all the prisoners we have worked with demonstrates their overwhelming fear of “outside” and what is potentially waiting for them – and how ill-prepared they are for release.

Karen Bond

Plymouth Law School Student Representative/RECOOP Volunteer

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