Mentors aim to stop revolving door of reoffending

A charity is aiming to stop the revolving door of reoffending by providing mentors to people leaving prison.

The Poole-based Footprints Project charity runs the scheme, supported by the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner.

They train people across the county to work as mentors guiding newly released prisoners into their new lives, with the aim of helping them integrate back into society and providing support in dealing with the issues that can lead them back into criminal behaviour.

Mentors are ‘matched up’ with people who are about to end their sentences and provide help around everything from accessing housing and getting registered at GPs’ surgeries to being set up with bank accounts and e-mail addresses.

Prisoners often refer themselves to the service ahead of release, and mentors will sometimes visit institutions such as HMP Guys Marsh and Portland to pick up people who do not have anyone else to collect them.

Others are referred to the charity from the probation service, when they are in need of an extra level of support.

Mentors can also help refer former offenders to more specialist support such as those dealing with mental health and drug and alcohol abuse issues.

Footprints Project manager Jo Wells said mentors often work closely with former prisoners during their first day of release but they can stay in contact with them for more than a year.

She said: “The first day in which people leave prison is incredibly full-on and our mentors can often spend the entire day with them.

“There’s a huge gap between prison and community which is often very difficult to overcome. People often come out without anywhere to stay, so they have to go to the local authority for housing, which can mean going in at 10am and not leaving until the end of the day.

“A mentor can be very helpful in that situation and they can do a lot of hand-holding to guide them through that process.”

Writing in a guest blog volunteer mentor Claire Spackman said: “Not everyone wants our help…. but for the ones that do, The Footprints Project will try their best to fill in the gaps, make life a little more bearable or make introductions to other charities that can help in a more specialised way.

“No matter what their past convictions are, most service users really want to make a connection with someone who can help without the feeling that they are being judged and condemned for their past.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “Reducing reoffending is one of the main issues affecting society and is one of my major priorities.

“Footprints do an excellent job of training people to be part of the local solution and this work is all about stopping the revolving door of offending by enabling former criminals to deal with those issues that led them into a life of crime in the first place.”

Anyone who is interested in volunteering as a mentor should contact info@footprintsproject.co.uk or go here for more info.

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