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Prison Reform Trust - Doing Time Good Practice

Thursday, July 8th 2010 - Francesca Cooney with Julia Braggins

 

 

PRISON REFORM TRUST
 
QUOTES FROM “DOING TIME GOOD PRACTICE”
 
 
 
Staff from 11 prisons (12% of the sample) explained that they had links with Age Concern, including ACOOP who work with prisons in the South West. Where these links were mentioned, it appeared that work with older prisoners had a higher profile in the prison.
 
The frank assessment from HMP Dartmoor showed how much was yet to be done, once the needs and difficulties had begun to be identified, through work with Age Concern Older Offenders Project (ACOOP):
 
The best work we do is finding out what we NEED to do! Since ACOOP came into the prison, we have identified so many areas of concern; health, wellbeing, isolation, socialisation, resettlement, training and work/volunteering opportunities are among the most frequent ones. Developing and improving these strands is an enormous task, and we haven’t discovered all the issues yet! The opportunity for us to explore the needs of older prisoners and give them a voice has made us realise that we still have a lot to do, just to provide the same service for them as we do for the rest of the younger prison population – that’s before we begin to provide “age-specific”
services!
 
Twenty eight prison staff (over one quarter) explained that they were already working with Age Concern or Help the Aged local groups. (These two organisations merged in April 2009 but prisons may be working with local groups using one or other of the names).
 
We have regular interventions from Age Concern Older Offenders Project.  One day per week which include focus groups, consultations and coffee mornings. (HMP Eastwood Park)
 
The majority of these organisations are individual Age Concerns. However, in the South West, there is a regional model, ACOOP, Age Concern Older Offenders Project. This works with the Prison Service and other agencies through partnership arrangements and offers social care, advice and support to older offenders and their families.
 
 
Doing Time Good Practice with older people in prison – the views of prison staff
 
ACOOP run groups in prison using their staff, volunteers and guest speakers. They also assist prison staff to develop services for older prisoners such as forums. They offer information, advocacy and practical support to older people within prisons and to those supporting and working with them.
 
The older prisoners coordinator can identify a prisoners needs and ensure that prison staff are aware of them. This work can be complex and many of the service users need long-term support or have numerous concerns that need addressing.
 
This project has the following benefits for older prisoners:
 
• Helps to alleviate anxiety and isolation among older prisoners
• Links people with agencies that can support them on release
• Helps to improve prisoners mental and physical well being
• Increases pro-social behaviour and prisoner participation
 
The project is also a valuable resource for staff who can use the expertise of the older prisoners coordinator in their daily work with the older people they support.
 
ACOOP has revolutionised the way we look after the needs of older prisoners here.  Without the outstanding hard work of their staff, we would still have isolated and unmotivated older prisoners. (HMP Dartmoor)
 
 
Resettlement Support from Outside Agencies
 
A number of prison staff reported productive links with external agencies, Age Concern in particular (13 prisons). Four respondents discussed the work of ACOOP, and its help with ‘housing, benefits and pensions’ was particularly appreciated.
 
 
ACOOP Resettlement Training
 
ACOOP's Resettlement Course was designed and written by an ex-prisoner.  The Course contains information on all aspects of life and the difficulties that older people may encounter on release from prisons. In particular, it focuses on accommodation including hostels, pensions, benefits, insurance, health, finances and tax. It is designed so that different units can be focused on as relevant to the group. The Course is designed to signpost and identify agencies and sources of support on release. The aim is that it will be rolled out across the country and used with groups of over 50s prisoners as they near release.
 
 
 
 

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