Service Users' Voices
Case Study from Eastwood Park
A. was on an ACCT and Suicide Watch during the first weeks at HMP EWP. There are days that A. has difficulties eating and/or speaking. She was referred to the Rubies Group by the Mental Health Care Team. (The Rubies is the name of the Over 50’s group, facilitated by the RECOOP worker).
When A. first came to the Rubies, she didn’t speak at all and sat very quietly, head bent, isolated and cut off from the rest. She is very softly spoken, warm-hearted and polite.
Slowly but steadily she relaxed more and one could see from the intelligent look in her eyes that she started to take an interest in her environment and the other group members. After a while, she became very involved with our discussion sessions (re: abuse, domestic violence, kicking substance mis-use issues), our poetry sessions, but craft work in particular. She learnt to crochet and is making an amazingly beautiful blanket, which occupies her during our sessions, as well as during in-cell time. This, she claims, keeps her mind off boredom and worrying.
At the same time she also became more and more interested in the other members of the group and her deeply caring nature became obvious, also to the prison and she became a trusted ‘Care-Orderly’, working with our Diversity and Equalities Officer
A. would now also make sure that those members of ‘The Rubies’ who are disabled and/or in wheelchairs would not be forgotten. She helped me campaign to get wheelchair access to our group meeting room, speaking up at a meeting in the Board room with our Top Governor present!
Becoming more involved with the needs of others, there were times that A. would come to the Rubies, just, as she said, to get some peace and quiet, away from the noise on the wings, but also to be away for a while from all the stories she heard women tell her about their lives.
During her 16 months in prison, A. faithfully came to every session; she is our ‘record attendee’ and though I am so pleased that she will be out soon, she will really be missed.
About a month, prior to her release, A. told me that she started to have anxiety-attacks about the up-coming release when she will re-locate to a new town in the SW of England. A. expresses fear of isolation and possible boredom. Apart from passing this on to the appropriate staff in the prison, I also gave her as much info as possible in order to build up a ‘new life’
A.‘s comments:” Rubies has been like an Oasis at times when I thought I wouldn’t survive. The weekends were the most difficult for me and the boredom.” When speaking about her anxieties regarding release she said:” I have lost my ability to be spontaneous and I am afraid of possible loneliness when I am released.” And when asked about her experience of the RECOOP Rubies Group she said:” It is an unpressured time separate from Mental Health Groups and where the outcomes are frequently different from expected in the situation. It could only be improved by having the group more often, I suggest 3 times a week, including at least 1 day at the weekend; then you know it’s not long until the next little Oasis in a long sentence”.
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