Reducing re-offending – a case study

Conrad (not his real name) was first in touch with CCN in 2018, as he approached another release from prison, with fear and uncertainty.  He had a long history of involvement with the Criminal Justice services, with persistent anti-social behaviour offenses throughout his teenage and adult life. 

CCN mentors maintained contact with Conrad throughout a troubled period which included heavy drinking and repeat offenses.  The outside world was a frightening and confusing place for Conrad who had not received good parenting or guidance and was disturbed by traumatic memories of childhood abuse, that significantly impacted his mental health.  On more than one occasion Conrad deliberately re-offended with the goal of returning to prison, as he was homeless and frightened in the wider community. 

A CCN mentor was able to connect consistently with Conrad, whether he was in custody or out of prison, beginning the slow process of building enough trust to be able to challenge Conrad’s anti-social behaviour and support him to stay sober long enough to access help for his underlying anxiety and depression.   Conrad still finds being in the community challenging, but he is living in supported hostel accommodation, meeting regularly with his mentor, who has supported him to engage with mental health services, and he is nine months sober.  He has not committed any further offenses since being released from prison at the end of October 2019.

Update posted June 2022, Conrad continues to be sober and is living in his own place with his girlfriend.  He continues to engage with mental health services.

– Posted July 2020

Achieving and maintaining goals – a case study

Karl (not his real name), heard about CCN whilst in HMP Norwich, when by chance, he was sharing a cell with another prisoner who had requested a visit from the CCN Project Leader.  Karl was back in prison after breaching the terms of his license for drug related offenses. 

CCN mentors met Karl at the gate on the day of his release and spent the day supporting him to access housing and probation services.  Karl was approaching middle age and repeatedly stated that he did not want to return to prison, that he knew his offending was directly related to his drug use, and that he wanted to make a new life for himself. 

CCN supported Karl over the next few weeks to access drug treatment services and understand the importance of maintaining abstinence from substances to achieve his goal of not returning to prison, even whilst living in temporary accommodation where others were using drugs around him, investing time to talk him through cravings and re-visit the reasons for his desire to change. 

With help from CCN Karl was able successfully to apply for stable, supported accommodation in an abstinence-based home and he felt much safer moving into a drug free environment.   Karl has participated in positive activities including gardening and odd jobs, both in the community and at his accommodation, he is rebuilding his relationship with his children and his parents and continues to maintain abstinence from all illegal drugs.  He has taken part in research into the effectiveness of Community Chaplaincy, sharing his experience to help researchers from the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge understand the support needs of prisoners.

– Posted July 2020

Day one: Prison Release – a case study

“If you hadn’t been here, I reckon I would’ve just collapsed on the floor with fear!” said Scott.

23-year-old Scott (not his real name) emerges from the forbidding, heavy wooden gate at HMP Norwich, clutching his black prison issue hold-all containing his few possessions. 

Two Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN) Mentors have been waiting outside since 8.30 (we aim to work in pairs on a gate meet).  Release time is always uncertain and depends on how many people are being shipped out to attend court or on transfer to other establishments.  Sometimes it’s a lengthy wait, but not today.

“As if I’m out of prison!” Scott is wide eyed and visibly shaken as we walk across the prison car park. He’s just served 15 months of a 2.5-year sentence and signed up for support from CCN a couple of months prior to his release.  He says he didn’t sleep much last night, and that his stomach was too unsettled to eat breakfast this morning.

We get into the car and ask Scott about his release paperwork.  He has a handful of papers which include his license conditions and details of the appointment time which he must attend at the Probation office today. “They’re sending me to Ipswich, I didn’t find out till just now”.  It’s common for the people we meet coming out of prison to have little or no idea where they will live when released.  As we drive down the prison driveway, past the high white fence topped with razor wire, Scott reflects on the offending behaviour which brought him to prison. “It’s a while since I’ve been in a car.  Driving the way I was, thank God I didn’t hit anyone!” We give him credit for his ability to reflect on and take responsibility for his misconduct, part of the role of a CCN Mentor is often to support someone to come to terms with the impact of their crimes.

We stop at the local shop so Scott can spend some of his discharge grant (recently increased for the first time in 25 years, from £46 to £76) on a cold bottle of cola.  I remind him to check for oncoming vehicles when he crosses the road – there is no traffic in prison. We head down the hill and park outside Centenary House, another Probation customer waiting on the steps outside greets Scott with a fist bump and offers him a swig on a can of beer. “Nah mate, I’m done with that” he grins.  Many prison leavers find the company and influence of old associates challenging to avoid, and good intentions to remain drink or drug free can be easily foiled by encounters such as this.  We affirm Scott’s handling of the situation and sit in the waiting room until his Probation Officer comes and invites us all through to a meeting room.

The Probation Officer talks through the conditions on Scott’s license, explaining that he will be expected to reside at an Approved Premises – a hostel managed by the Probation Service, where he will need to sign in at the office three times each day, and be inside between the hours of 7pm and 7am.  Scott signs to say that he agrees to and understands the terms of his release, and that any breach of the rules will mean he will be recalled to prison.  Talking about his hopes for the future, finding work and to re-establish relationships with family members is emotional for Scott and he sheds a few tears.

Scott is provided with a travel warrant and we head off to the train station to exchange it for tickets.  We talk about the importance of remembering to eat regularly and one of the Mentors accompanies Scott into the shop to help him choose some lunch for the journey.  Mealtimes are a set part of the regime in prison, and the flurry of activity on release, along with being unaccustomed to planning or preparing food, often means that prison leavers don’t eat consistently, which can have a negative impact on mood or behaviour.  One of the roles of a CCN Mentor is reminding Clients about the simple building blocks of life. We check the route from the train station to the hostel, make arrangements for Scott to check in with his Mentor by phone over the weekend, and agree that she will visit him next week.   He expresses his gratitude, and we watch and wave as he goes through the barrier and gets on the train. 

Walking away, we both articulate a wave of emotion. It is an intense experience to witness the transition, and we are both acutely aware of the challenges Scott will face, and his vulnerability.  It feels valuable to contribute towards increasing his chances of successful reintegration into society.

– Posted June 2022

Ongoing support – a case study.

Simon’s story (not his real name).

Initially making contact with CCN during the lockdown conditions of July 2020 via telephone call facilitated by prison staff at HMP Norwich, Simon described himself as a prolific and priority offender, who had been in and out of prison many times over the years, with much of his offending behaviour driven by addiction.  Simon began writing to his CCN Mentor and was met at the prison gate on release in August 2020, after a brief period in the community, Simon returned to custody a few weeks later.   Stating that he had liked his Mentor and would like to try again, Simon re-established contact with CCN via prison staff, and remote support continued until he was released at short notice in November 2020.  Making a call to CCN on the day of release Simon was able to receive practical help and emotional support in the form of a cheap mobile phone, access to bed and breakfast for the night and a cup of tea and a chat.  Following another return to prison for a longer sentence Simon was released again and met by CCN from the gate at HMP Wayland in July 2022. 

Working closely with colleagues from the Integrated Offender Management Team and Probation, CCN have very much enjoyed seeing Simon begin to rebuild his life.  In the 15 weeks since he left prison Simon has succeeded in finding full time employment and stable accommodation, as well as undertaking volunteering work with a local charity and engaging with a CAP (Christians Against Poverty) practitioner to upskill himself around money management.

Simon is not complacent about the work required to maintain lasting change and he is appreciative of the ongoing support offered by the CCN team, regularly contacting staff and his volunteer Mentor by phone or meeting in person at their base in St Stephen’s Church.  When asked about his views on the CCN service, Simon says “If I didn’t have CCN, I’d be in trouble.  They’ve been there for me, not just this time, but previous times, even when I wasn’t quite ready, they have been very supportive”. 

– Posted November 2022