This website uses cookies to improve your experience. You can learn more about cookies and our cookie usage here - OK I have read that thanks
 Forgotten your password?


RECOOP invited to work at an Immigration Removal Centre

Friday, December 2nd 2016 - Sandra Seldon - Project Co-ordinator

I had thought that my work at HMP The Verne had come to an end when the prison closed in 2013 and prepared for its new role as an IRC.   The prison used to be a Category C men’s prison, located within the historic Verne Citadel on the Isle of Portland in Dorset.  The prison, having opened in 1949 and built on the highest point of Portland, is surrounded by cliffs and a moat with entrances via a footbridge and one via a tunnel.

The prison was converted into an Immigration Removal Centre and opened in March 2014. The Verne was an open-style prison, though work has taken place in recent years to strengthen the perimeter walls.  Under Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, the status of the prison was changed to hold up to 600 immigration detainees awaiting removal from the country.  This change formed part of a wider plan to modernise the prison estate.

Detainees wait on a daily basis to hear if the Home Office has reached a decision on when and if they will be removed from the country.  Living with such uncertainty causes great distress and older detainees have not always coped well with their predicament.  The Equalities Team contacted me to return to the Verne in its new identity in order to provide both mental and physical activity to their older population.  These activities would need to transcend language barriers – the largest community being Bangladeshi, but detainees speak a very varied range of languages and very few speak English fluently. They also have enormous cultural differences.  

This created quite a challenge for RECOOP -  a steep learning curve indeed!   I have initially launched with a programme of activities that require demonstration and minimal use of language.  We have offered yoga, both chair and two levels of yoga to meet needs, art and sewing workshops.  We have invited a Bangladeshi speaker to help support the work we do by carrying out focus groups to ascertain that any programmes meet the needs of those there.   We are now in our fifth month.

However, most detainees are held for a short time only and this means that programmes are best repeated to ensure all detainees are given an opportunity to benefit.  Attendance is growing and initial scepticism appears to have significantly reduced.  The prison has agreed to provide refreshments and those who speak English have an opportunity to interact and help us and each other.   The feedback we have received has been most encouraging.   We are planning to continue our existing activities but hope also to include cookery, films and well-being sessions in future.  Watch this space!


Back to the News Index

Latest Tweets follow us!
  • Robert Buckland QC MP visited the Lobster Pot, at HMP Leyhill & was delighted to learn about RECOOP's excellent wor…, Jul 05, 2019
  • Thank you @alzheimerssoc and Healthcare Dept for the first Dementia Awareness Day at the Lobster Pot giving residen…, Jul 02, 2019
  • RECOOP awarded @EsmeeFairbairn grant to fund new development work to support even more older service-users across t…, May 22, 2019
  • Thank you @RNIB for visiting the Lobster Pot at HMP Leyhill and delivering a Confidence Building Course which was…, Apr 30, 2019
  • @Clinks_Tweets Great to have Paul Grainge with us from @RECOOP_UK to speak today. A national charity specialising i…, Apr 04, 2019
  • We’re pleased to be part of @clinks #flexibilityisvital and hope that momentum continues, Apr 01, 2019
  • Transition 50+ Resettlement Programme “really provides a focus for the men, some of whom have spent a very long tim…, Mar 18, 2019
  • Just published: 'A Different Sense of Time' – a portfolio of RECOOP’s age-appropriate services to aid prisons find…, Feb 19, 2019
  • Over 34,000 individuals benefited from RECOOP's 50+ Day Centres in 2018, Feb 06, 2019
  • RECOOP’s Distraction Packs address the need for prisoners to “…. access stimulating in-cell activities to help them…, Jan 23, 2019
Monday, July 8th 2019
He was delighted to learn about our excellent work both in the prison and in support of our residents when they leave prison.  Robert enjoyed the hospitality on offer at the Pot and understood the importance of ‘charity’ in a custodial ...
RECOOP projects win Platinum Award 2014 & 2015