Case Study

Breaking down barriers – the right way

21 May 2024

George has a job, actively volunteers, is studying at the Open University, and is writing a book. He is also a serving prisoner at HMP Sudbury in Derbyshire and is the first person in custody to ever complete the Ingeus Peer Mentor Academy whilst on temporary release. Breaking new ground and determined to help others turn their lives around, George is swapping an addiction to drugs for an addiction to learning.

“I guess I’ve turned the education thing around,” says George, who left school with no qualifications and struggled to settle into working life after a promising football career stalled. Subsidising a drug habit by turning to dealing when work dried up during Covid, in 2021 George received an eight-year sentence, four to be served in custody.

“It was my first time in trouble, and it was so hard on my family,” recalls George, now 40, who is happily married with two teenage children. “In Bedford jail I started with very basic English and maths – my English teacher was incredible – and something finally clicked. I love learning new things now and am studying a pre-degree course in psychology and counselling.”

During his time at HMP Bedford, George was a Young Adult Ambassador and worked in the reception team, where he unearthed his passion for helping others. Seeing repeat offenders returning time and again to the prison, George wanted to provide practical help and motivation to stop the cycle of reoffending.

Thanks to Ingeus’s Commissioned Rehabilitative Services, he now has that opportunity.

Transferred to HMP Sudbury in 2023 and released on temporary licence to work, volunteer, and visit his family, George spotted details of the Ingeus Peer Mentor Academy. An eight-week structured programme of self-discovery and life-skills, it harnesses the power of lived experiences. The academy also provides an opportunity for participants to gain a Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement. Successful graduates, like George, can volunteer in a range of activities with Ingeus, such as a health champion role which includes supporting experienced Ingeus staff to deliver workshops and training to other participants. Celebrating his achievement at an Ingeus ceremony in February 2024, George’s wife and daughter were there to applaud his success.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without my family’s support,” continues George. “I’m so, so thankful for everything I have. I’ve seen other prisoners struggling with no housing, no family relationships, no basic things. Building your life back from that is so hard. Being a better role model for my kids, a better husband, and putting my mistakes to good use is all I want now.

“The Peer Mentor Academy taught me so much about the impact of my behaviour on others and valuable boundaries to stick to. The other participants were from different backgrounds, yet we all gelled and learnt from each other. It’s put me in a really good place to help at the volunteering sessions; people are intrigued by me as I’m still a serving prisoner.”

George now supports people on probation at Ingeus’ Midlands centres, volunteering one day a week. He works four paid shifts a week picking and packing orders for an online sales site and has regular family visits. His days at the prison are spent studying, writing a book of his life experiences, and visiting the gym. He’s lost more than 12kg in weight since being sentenced and has his sights firmly set on the next chapter of his life:

“I have one year left to serve, with release on temporary licence,” concludes George. “Ultimately I want to help young offenders – to stop that life spiral that goes so wrong for people.”

Recognising the rapport and empathy that people with lived experience can bring to the benefit of others, 17% of Ingeus’s current workforce has directly encountered the criminal justice system.

Commissioned Rehabilitative Services - Justice | Ingeus

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