So in July we were commissioned by People Plus within HMP Norwich to deliver our signature three-day Tenancy & Independent Living Skills (TILS) training.
It’s been a few years since I worked in the secure estate and to be honest I’d not worked with adults and not at HMP Norwich.
My rational brain told me everything I know from my career. That people in prison are just people and that I can problem-solve my way out of most situations.
With a colleague a bit more nervous than me, having never worked in a prison, my own confidence was momentarily brought into question. I told him that it was normal to be anxious and that we needed to be more prepared than ever, because once we’re in, we’re in!
One of things I’d forgotten about the secure estate is that it’s – well, secure. The endless locking and unlocking of doors and prohibitions on what we could take in, meant we had to adapt the course.
Additionally, timings are at the mercy of the prison – and their security regime. An already oddly shaped day (8.30am – 11.50am with a toilet break only and then 2pm – 4pm with no break) was further interrupted if the roll was down i.e. one prisoner was unaccounted for. This meant that most days we lost at least another half an hour. More adapting!
We trained four young men over the three days. One of the biggest challenges working with slightly older people in this setting can be a fixed mindset and an outlook that the world doesn’t work for them. And it doesn’t! That is absolutely their reality and it’s not our place to tell them that if they behave a certain way everything will be fine. This would almost certainly be a lie.
As ever, what we had was a fantastic mixed group with mixed views. So whilst there were some challenging conversations and behaviours, at no time was the course de-railed. We enjoyed talking about their barriers, what behaviours they felt were unhelpful and how they could set themselves small actionable goals that they alone identified.
We finished on a positive with everyone getting their certificate and showing genuine pride at their achievement.
But I remain torn. The course was of value, but having built those relationships of trust, I want to do more. They need more! Of which more in another blog!