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Victim Support Employee and Criminology Graduate, Placement Student with ACOOP October '08 - May '10

During the final year of my Criminology degree at the University of the West of England I was given the opportunity to complete a placement module through the Reducing Reoffending Partnership South West and was linked up with the Age Concern Older Offenders Project (ACOOP), with whom my placement was focused. My main task was to carry out an evaluation into the “Health, Social Care and Resettlement of Older Women Offenders” which required me to begin by conducting some background research into what facilities and support were currently in place for older women offenders in prison and completing an extensive literature review. I then had to conduct a small scale research project with women in HMP Eastwood Park, during which I used a questionnaire that gave participants an opportunity to rate the prisons facilities and support mechanisms and then followed this up with a focus group to get some more qualitative answers and opinions. Finally I analysed the data and presented my conclusions and recommendations in a detailed report for ACOOP.

The ultimate aim of my placement was to provide ACOOP and other agencies, for example the Prison Service (particularly HMP Eastwood Park) and NOMS (National Offender Management service), with some recommendations and conclusions related to the health, social care and resettlement of older women offenders.  My report was so positively received by ACOOP that it was sent to a number of criminal justice agencies in the south west and published in the “CLINKS” e-bulletin, for prison and probation service employees. This placement gave me the opportunity to liaise with other agencies for information including research contacts from NOMS South West and NACRO, the crime reduction charity. This opportunity was extremely rewarding as ACOOP took my recommendations onboard and has clearly continued to develop with it now financially supported by BCHA and being renamed slightly as RECOOP. Through my placement I was given a somewhat exclusive opportunity as a student to visit a number of prisons during which I got the chance to talk to the offenders and was able to see what the prison environment was really like. It gave me a chance to make a small difference to the lives of older women offenders at a number of prisons across the South West which has undoubtedly fuelled my desire to continue working with and play a part in changing their behaviour. I believe the work RECOOP do is one of a kind and is vital which is shown in the words of those who have experienced and benefited from its work in and out of prison.

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