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By Andy Mouncey, Oct 8 2020 10:18AM

Whisper it quietly but it’s all starting to click.

It really is.


After years of recording a depressing catalogue of setbacks and frustrations in this blog – with a few victories sprinkled in to keep the Hope tank topped off and the sense of jeopardy alive for my readers - I’m faced with a blank page and the prospect of telling you about, well – good stuff.

Spine tickle-ingly good actually.


Of course there is irony here as well: The pandemic has hit a great many people in the criminal justice sector disproportionally hard. No surprise there: Right now you can go grouse shooting till your trigger finger falls off but if you are released from prison you still only get £46 in your hand but this time while you were staring at walls the world shrunk, turned upside down and writing the ‘How To Navigate’ manual remains a work in progress.


In my sober moments it has not been lost on me that at a time when the need of many is escalating and still only just becoming apparent even now… https://www.russellwebster.com/capptive2/ I seem to have turned a corner and I’m doing more than OK thanks.


I’ve switched up my work, it’s starting to fly and that’s not really fair – is it?

Sorting that repressive shit out has been quite important.

I’ve donned my Thinking Clearly PPE and wriggled inside to work on that sneaky building inner conflict:


This is me putting myself into the best position I can to make the best contribution I can.

It’s been 8 years in the making – shut the f*** up and follow it through: The time is now.


It sure seems that way.

Anyway.

Are you ready? Here we go…


Full Court Press

It has felt that way for these last 4 months. I would describe it as getting a sniff of really being onto something - the Supporting Prison Governor work – and realising that no-one else was doing anything like it AND reminding myself through the early stages of the work that I really was very much at home in this space.


I could do this shit really well – hell, I’d been practicing for 20 years!

I could get hold of senior people because they were at home and/or part of reduced operational regimes which meant they were there, talking and I was listening, checking and testing.

And whatever else I had in 8 years in the sector I knew damn well that I’d nurtured a professional network stacked with good people.

The rest was running down the leads and checking what I was hearing and doing it all wrapped up in a layer of courteous relentlessness – if indeed there is such a thing.


Of course it helped that most of my paid work had stopped – concentrates the mind – but as a partnership Mouncey Inc was still doing OK because Mrs Mouncey was busier than ever www.bookstyle.co.uk Seems like in lockdown folks just want to get that book out…


It felt like I was pushing – FINALLY – at an unlocked door, and the more I pushed the more it opened.

So I f***in’ pushed.

And pressed and was generally all over it like an orange-clad shaven-headed rash.

Now there’s a picture.


There were setbacks and stonewalls for sure – multiple unsuccessful grant applications / Powers That Be utterly uninterested – but this time it’s been all fuel to my fire:

This Is The Way – sometimes you just need to find another route.


Play The Long Game

We are – yes, really - in detailed discussions with one of the Big Four London-based auditors about a partnership that supports the governor work. This will bring some of their senior leaders to work alongside our governors in our Reciprocal Mentoring model.

And they’ll match-fund.


I have to go back 5 years to find the origin of this: I did two half day workshops for them – thanks Michael - at their London base and I knew then that the end game was to find a way that they could support my work in the criminal justice sector.


The rest has been keeping the connections alive without coming across as a needy pain in the arse and building a track record in the sector that would give me credibility.

‘So…what’s got your attention about this chance to work with us?’ I asked one of their senior people last week.

‘We’ve never done anything like this, it scares the shit out of us – and we need to be shaken’ was the gist of the reply.

Well, I can help you with all that…


Do The Work

I bless my partnership with Kebbell who continue to give me some ££ every month for this work. It means we’ve had some funding to work with though the majority has been on my time and expense.


My choice: Just do the work. Set a limit, park any worries you think you have about ££ and just do the work. You need to wow ‘em with the work – It Is The Only Way.


So that’s what I did – started back in May with 3 prison governors with whom I had the strongest relationships, set limits and grew it through their say so to a total of 10: Our original 3 plus 7 of their peers.

We reached those limits last month – since then it’s been squidgy bum time or holding my nerve, whichever you prefer.


Invite Them In

The one thing that has tipped people from a position of Interest to Advocacy has been a chance to participate in the Zoom group coaching sessions. That means joining a live coaching session with 3 prison governors and being willing and able to join in without really knowing what’s coming.

Squidgy bum again.


We’ve had 3 expressions of interest in the Reciprocal Mentoring model and each time I’ve invited our senior contact from that private sector business to join us on Zoom. It means the participating governors have to be OK with it – they have without exception – and our guest has to play by our rules.

(Which gave me a few broken nights figuring a way to keep everyone and everything safe).


For all our guests this has been their first contact with the criminal justice sector – it has, they tell me, been an incredibly moving one - and it has been the experience that has swung it for our Interested Auditor.


Have A Wingman

Or Wingwoman.

I have Chris – a wingMan.

I recruited Chris to RFYL CIC advisory group a couple of years back.

‘You wont have to do much ‘ I said – which was just as well as he was just ending a career with Shell as a senior trouble-shooter around the world and was looking for a bit of the quiet life to play with his big boy toys.

And then this started to go – and I asked a first question – and he got hooked.


He’s been a bloody godsend: He supports me when we deliver – we’ve figured out how to back each other up on Zoom to make it look like a seamless same page thing – and he’s a voice of considered reason during those time I just wanna jump first and figure it out after.

Working with me is no small ask: I have expectations, opinions – and lotsa orange shirts.

Bless him he’s rolled with it also far.

Big thanks, fella.


And Finally, Know That People Talk

You just want ‘em to talk about the shit you want ‘em to talk about in the way you want ‘em to talk about it to the people you want ‘em to talk about it to.

‘Cos then you get a call like I did this week from the people who employ our prison governors in one particular part of the country:

‘We’ve heard about your work with our people.

We want to support it.

Can you put a Proposal together please?’





Timeline RFYL CIC

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face) from Kebbell Homes

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.

2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown

2020 June: Start an online service supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 37

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1



By Andy Mouncey, Sep 22 2020 08:56AM

Just because my last few posts have been all about fun and games in the criminal justice sector doesn’t mean there haven’t been fun and games elsewhere in my world. So by way of contrast I thought I’d dilute the serious Mission stuff with some of my silly self-inflicted stuff.


I’ve had little desire over these last 6 months to run lots of hilly miles chasing Fastest Known Time records. Plenty of other folks have been doing that – some very VERY impressive new marks have been set and it’s still happening.


Like these…

Donnie Campbell sets new time for running all 282 munros

Carol Morgan breaks lakeland 24 hour record

John Kelly completes grand round

Finlay Wild sets new Ramsey Round record


And previously we had these…

Beth Pascall on her Bob Graham record

Damien Hall the quickest man on the Pennine Way

Sabrina Verjee becomes first woman to run the Wainwrights

Kim Collinson breaks lakes 24-hour record


Quite frankly I’ve not had the mental or emotional energy for anything like this – our two boys have been home for the duration so my focus has been on them, the household and on trying to figure out (for the zillionth time) how the bloody hell I’m going to get over the latest bump in the road to criminal justice salvation.


That meant figuring out what I could do at home inside and out in our tiny yard, with little/no special kit and when the rest of the family wouldn’t really notice. Oh yeah – and it would have to be quantifiable so I could see progress (or not) which would be the motivation / kick up the arse.


So I’ve been mainly working on my strength-conditioning and staying interested by setting myself lots of silly challenges. Some have been a breeze and a blast and some I’ve had kittens at the prospect – genuine nerves 2-3 days in advance: Proper butterflies!


Three sessions in particular have been periodically scaring me stupid – less now that I’ve hit the marks that I set all those months ago, but let’s just say that that the prospect of doing them again will never exactly fill me with deep joy.

It’s just that they really work – and they’re good for the soul: Mine at least.

And you gotta do the work.


A word of warning to those of you who are into this sort of stuff: Don’t FFS try these at home.

I’ve been strength training since I was a teen and I’ve been working on these exercises and variations of them for the last few years. This is just the latest incarnation – but it’s been decades in the making. You need to find your own starting level and own rate of progression. Please.


Stay alert.

Control the urge.

Save it for the future.



Hello darkness my old friend...
Hello darkness my old friend...


Reason To Be Fearful Part 1: 40kg Sandbag Get Up 10min Test Without Warm Up

The Get Up is arguably the most time-effective bang-for-your-buck conditioning exercise I know that integrates the torso and lower body. It has everything. Add a sandbag and it just gets better and better.

This version is right at the edge of sane and it is an utter head-f***.

The goal is simply to do as many GUs in 10mins as possible.


I’ve seen good athletes throw in the towel before they even start and/or after 1-2 reps at the prospect of long drawn out minutes of soul-crushing agony. You need high levels of emotional intelligence and some smart head strategies. Getting safely from start to number 8 is vital. After that it just gets worse.


The weight bores down on you through every part of the movement. Your technique needs to be solid through extreme fatigue ‘cos grunt alone wont cut this. Though you can grunt horribly beyond 5minutes – I do. The discipline is to ignore the watch and just grind it out – being absorbed in each rep and the now is the only way to stay sane. The gold standard is 60 reps which I have now hit once and exceeded once – once I figured that each rep with this load over this time actually needed 3-4 breaths and an appalling amount of mono-syllabic bad language. And sweat.



Reason To Be Fearful Part 2: 30min 20kg Loaded Step Up Test + Intervals

It’s amazing how much discomfort can be had from something that seems so simple: Step up and down from a bench with a bag on your back until it’s time to stop.

Except 20kg against gravity at pace is bloomin’ heavy.


Now I’d done plenty of 500 step tests with 20kg on my back for time before I started wrestling with this. I’d also done 1000 step tests. I’d even -one cold winter morning 2-3 years ago- attempted a 2000 step test with 20kg. (Keeping count is interesting – I was using chalk to tally-mark on the wall in front of me that was getting progressively damper from my snot and spit. Anyway, I failed and ground to a halt at 1750 reduced to a hobble for a week afterwards that took some serious physio to sort out. Silly man). But this baby…


Max reps in 30mins means finding the line between heel to the steel and smart pacing that has you consistent through each 100 steps. If you’ve done 500 steps for time before you will know that in most cases it will be 500+. In my case it’s get to 500 and keep going for around another 10mins. That’s just Part 1.


Part 2 is days away after the 30minute fun and has you with a calculator dividing your 30mins step total by 3 then adding a certain amount for extra fun-factor. This gives you a 10minute step target that has you going at it harder than your 30min pace and had me wobbling with fatigue in the final few minutes spraying sweat, snot and gob everywhere and generally being a danger to myself and other users of our yard. Then you take a short rest and do it again. And again.

Holy f***in’ Christ!

To date I’ve only ever hit target once consistently through the reps and oddly enough it’s not something I’m all that keen to repeat.



Reason To Be Fearful Part 2: 1000-Up

This one is all out of my sick and twisted imagination and is bodyweight only. It started out one late afternoon when I needed to blow the cobwebs out, try something new and smile again. And I had 20mins. So obviously I chose 100 Get Ups followed by 100 Burpees as continually as possible – so breaks were allowed.

Then I started thinking…Could I do 500 of this? More?


What eventually evolved was this:

As continually as possible and for time…

100 High Step Ups

100 Get Ups

100 Burpees


The HSU is the max height I can handle without looking like Bambi.

The GU is alternate leg leading

The Burpees are Crossfit style

– so you belly flop rather than strict press up which makes it a little easier ‘cos you get a tenny tiny rest.


Repeat by adding layers of 100 in sequence. So 400-Up is:

100 HSU

100 GU

100 BP

100 HSU


…and 500-Up is:

100 HSU

100 GU

100 BP

100 HSU

100 GU

…and so on to 1000 movements.


Everything is unbroken and continuous except for the burpees: No flippin’ way can I do 100 BP straight off even with a teeny tiny belly rest – I have to break ‘em up and I do so like this:

5 x 20 the first time through

6 x 15 + 10 for the second 100

10 x 10 for the 900 mark


The next evolution is to be brave enough to use these as benchmark sessions – so instead of a progressive build up to the gold standard I simply come back to ‘em periodically to test where I’m at relative to that gold standard.

If I’m brave enough.


That also means that my training continues to have a healthy dose of other stuff apart from the running. One reason is that so I can actually jump back in and test myself against these monsters without too much shame at the outcome AND without doing myself an injury.


The other reason is so I can continue to pick up gauntlets that are periodically cast in my direction:

When a prison physical training instructor challenges me to a gym workout thinking that they can grind this weedy runner into the ground – I need to be able to step up. (For the record they do and so far they haven’t. it’s a blokey pissing contest thing).

When our boys want to do a speed version of The Floor Is Lava around our house I need to be able to wriggle out of the kitchen window 3 meters off the ground and bridge for 5 meters down the length of our hall.

And when I get invited to hook up with the local roadie bikers for the death-or-glory club run it would be really nice do be able to do so without being dropped off the back on the first hill.

Leverage – ‘tis a wonderful thing.



Thanks to www.mtactical.com for inspiration. Bastards.




By Andy Mouncey, Sep 4 2020 09:44AM

This story first appeared in my current newsletter but it got such a response that I’ve reproduced it here along with an addition.

The addition is part of a letter I recently received from one of my program graduates at HMP Wymott

I’d written to all 35 men during lockdown – well, it was the only way to reach ‘em and while my own adjustments to Covid19 restrictions were all firmly in the ‘First World Problem’ category I knew damn well that someone had just slammed the proverbial lid on their already restricted existence – and the human cost of that is only now starting to emerge

So I’d written and Matt (not his real name) had written back with an insight into the inside.

But first, here’s the story that made waves from the newsletter:




Success & Straight Lines

I usually do my best to make these pieces uplifting but I can’t say that for this one. But I wanted to write it- so here it is:


I’d been trying to get hold of Simon (not his real name) for the last 3 months. We met at HMP Wymott where he was in the final stages of a sentence for a drugs related offence. He graduated my second program in January and came back and mentored on my third program a month later.

A few weeks after that he was due to be released.

We were delighted for him – he’d thrown himself into the experience and had dragged others with him: A bloody beacon, he was.


I resolved to stay in touch and to try and find a way to involve him in future work – hell, who wouldn’t want someone from the inside turned advocate on the outside? – and I wrote him a letter on graduation to that effect.

It blew him away.


We stayed in contact: I’d got an invite to speak at a leadership conference for BAE Systems for which I’d picked the theme ‘Collaboration’. My prison work was to be a case study example in which prison officers and men serving sentences had participated together to experience and achieve something greater than the individual people.


Simon was to be the star turn - we’d got permission from his probation worker and I’d figured out how to get him there. Understandably he was having kittens at the prospect of standing up before 100+ senior folks from all over the world (!) – but I was certain he’d be there and it would be a unique insight for our hosts as well.

Then Covid19 hit and two days before conference date it was pulled.


I stayed in contact: He had a job offer – huge breakthrough - but couldn’t start till the pandemic restrictions eased.

I kept the contact: Still on hold – still living with his parents but sounding pretty upbeat down the phone.

Then nothing.


I finally tracked down his probation worker and heard the news: Simon had been convicted of another drugs-related offence and because it was a repeat he’d been handed a more severe sentence of 5 years.

My heart sank.


Meaningful success rarely happens in a straight line.

Hardly ever on our first choice timescale.

As is never something that someone else can do for us.

Meaningful success takes us round the houses and into dead ends.

It takes way longer and demands way more time, energy and effort than we might think.

And it’s something that we have to want and figure for ourselves.


When there are drugs involved then you can kiss goodbye to rational decision-making – and if you want to open your eyes to how the dice is loaded read anything by Gabor Mate

Whatever did happen to put Simon back inside there are two certainties:

1.It’s. Never. That. Simple.

2.Re-offending is more normal than not – the stats had Simon heading back even as he was taking his first steps out.

And me? Well, I’ve got to try find him and then the letter writing will start. After that? We’ll see…



Insight Into The Inside: Extract from Matt’s Letter

‘As for me I’m doing really well. I’m still on -Wing which is now for those with health conditions but I consider my self lucky because I’m one of the cleaners. I work in the laundry and on the servery so I’m out most of the day which is a massive help as it keeps me busy and I’m helping all the other lads where I’m able. It also helps me feel good to help where I can. Yes I have bad days but I keep going. Life is not meant to be a fairy tale – there are curve balls in the way but it’s how we deal with it that matters -and like you say, it’s what we can control not what we cannot.


There are 7 other cleaners on here all good lads. You would not recognise the place as we have put loads of time and effort into it. We have polished all the floors and painted the full Wing. We have a beautiful garden out front and we are growing fresh vegetables which is good because I’m still eating healthy food and don’t eat sweet things too much either.


The staff here have been amazing in these times but they should not have to risk themselves in this current situation – they did not sign up for that but it’s one of the things out of our control.

PS I still wear my T shirt very proudly’ :)



Timeline RFYL CIC

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face) from Kebbell Homes

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.

2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown

2020 June: Start an online service supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 35

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1




By Andy Mouncey, Aug 12 2020 04:53PM


If you have done well in business, care about the communities that you serve and want to give back, we would like to talk to you about reciprocal mentoring with a prison governor.


• Be Of Service: Give time and share experiences in the service of others

• Up Your Game: Professional coaching with a difference and a 20 year proven track record

• Refine Your Skills: Collaboration, mentoring, building relationships

• Open Your Mind: Challenge what you believe about yourself, others and the world around you

• Do It Now: There is a gap and an urgent need that you can help fill


Mission

Suspend what you think you believe about crime and punishment.

There are currently around 90,000 people – men, women, young people and children – behind bars in this country and most of them will be released. This means that some of them may be coming to a community near you.

So what do you want?

You want them to be playing by the same rules as you do.

Which means prison also needs to be a place where people are offered a second chance and help they need to successfully rehabilitate to become a force for good back in their community.

This is a tough mission and under Covid19 it just got tougher.


Problem

Prisons have been in lockdown since mid-March with men and women confined to cells for up to 23 hours a day. This strategy has been successful in keeping deaths from Covid19 much lower than Public Health England predicted but at a human health cost that is only now starting to emerge. Prisons are only now starting to loosen some of their lockdown restrictions – while society in general is much further ahead – and the process for prisons is unlikely to happen in a straight line.


All networking and professional and personal development opportunities for prisons governors – the CEO - has stopped at a time when their already tough mission just got harder. Bringing their people – and the affected families - with them safely through and out of extraordinary measures into whatever a ‘new normal’ will be has potential to be a matter of life and death. Additional support has gone to front line staff and those serving sentences while governors have remained isolated. Meanwhile scrutiny and control from government has increased.


Prison Service culture is historically risk-averse, male-dominated and insular: Asking for help, thinking outside the sector ‘box’ and taking charge of your own professional development is an exemption from the norm. Exemptions do exist – but they are swimming against the tide.


The time is now: Many in the sector believe that as prisons emerge for the first time from lockdown restrictions that the hard work is only just beginning. Controlling infection of a high-risk population by isolation was simple and effective – re-starting rehabilitation activities in a new controlled environment is a new and much bigger ask of the people making the key decisions on the ground.


Solution

We have been refining an online led process that brings three prison governors together on Zoom for specific coaching-mentoring-training. The process has been designed to be deliberately different to anything previously available to them in-house – so as to facilitate breakthrough – and specific to the challenge of thinking and operating differently in order to lead their people and prison through the challenge of Covid19.


Our next level of development is Reciprocal Mentoring: Partner a prison governor with a senior leader from the corporate world and have them supporting and learning from each other on Zoom with us.


Scope

We started in working with our first three governors in May - this grew by word of mouth to eight in July and we will add another two this month with four more waiting. There are 117 prisons in England & Wales.


Find Out More


Read about the prison work

https://www.bigandscaryrunning.com/blog/4584755693/A-Glimpse-Of-The-Real-Inside/11437358


Read about the work with prison governors

https://www.bigandscaryrunning.com/blog/4584755693/RFYL-Rising/11457337


Read more about the challenges the sector is facing with Covid19

https://www.clinks.org/community/blog-posts/leaving-prison-pandemic-how-services-are-responding



What Is On Offer

This is a professional service: The fee paid by the corporate sector will pay for in whole or part the work in the criminal justice sector.


There will be a selection process: We will work with you to mix and match and put measures in place.


There will be rules: Our expectations of you will be high and explicit because this is sensitive work. There will be things you/we cannot do/say and we will make an agreement with you to this effect.


Your package is bespoke: A combination of Andy’s services for you and your people or just the reciprocal mentoring with a prison governor over your choice timescale.


Total commitment: The stakes are about as high as they can be for a prison governor right now. You need to match their commitment at 100%. This opportunity is not for anyone – but if you believe it could be for you and some of your people please contact me [email protected] 07799 063 115


Thank you




By Andy Mouncey, Jul 17 2020 03:56PM

The story so far

Frontline Lifeline is a Covid-19 support package for prison governors, staff, men and women serving sentences and their families.


Our contribution to the mission of rehabilitation is to create communities of mutual support on the inside that move on and become a force for good on the outside.


We use coaching, training and mentoring to help these people take charge of their physical health, think clearly under pressure and manage their mood in a complex, changing, challenging environment.


This work stopped in March as prisons entered lockdown and we’ve been unable so far to get invitations and funding to re-start our work with those serving time.

Four months on and we find ourselves supporting prison governors instead.

How on earth did that happen?

Like this…



Locked down and locked out.

Again.


It took 7 years for me to transition from first contact with the criminal justice system – an invitation to work with an education partner in a prison that ultimately came to naught – to first paid contracted program work at HMP Wymott Theraputic Community.


We were in the throes of bridging from that first work https://www.bigandscaryrunning.com/blog/4584755693/A-Glimpse-Of-The-Real-Inside/11437358 to next when Covid-19 hit and everything stopped.


If the implications weren’t so serious I would have laughed hysterically just to stop myself gouging my eyes out with a spoon in despair. This work was never supposed to be a walk in the park – but, really??


Everyday since then I’ve thought about the 33 men and 4 staff who were on my program and in my care.

They say you shouldn’t get emotionally involved – ha!

How are you supposed to connect with people if you’re just pretending?

I have self-care strategies so I can give a sh** and stay sane. And they work – mostly…


I was still in contact with senior staff and I could read the reports and press clearly enough: Infection rates were being controlled but those of us who walk in this world with our eyes open knew that the physical, mental and emotional cost was high and rising even if hard data to back that up was hard to come by.


I needed to be in there.

I wanted to be in there.

Getting the green light to do so was proving a bitch.


I tried – really, I tried https://www.bigandscaryrunning.com/blog/4584755693/This-Is-Not-The-Way*/11453960

Nothing.


Needing an outlet for my angst above and beyond hard physical training sessions that produced a temporary respite – otherwise known as Self-Care Strategy Number 7a - I targeted Chris from Run For Your Life’s informal advisory group.


Chris is a former trouble-shooter for a major global oil company - so he’s been around the block a few times. Conversation turned from Process to People and Culture: We both knew (‘cos we’d done it) that if you’re serious about changing a culture you can start at the chalk face – that’s the work I’d done at HMP Wymott pre-lockdown – then you go to the top of the food chain with the senior role models and then you meet in the middle with the staff.


I could also see that there was a ton of support going in to people isolated and serving sentences and to a lesser extent frontline staff.

But who was supporting the people coordinating the support?

Who was looking after the governors?


Ironically I’d found it easier to reach the prison governors I knew during lockdown in part because their operations on-site were simpler – less people/moving - and they had way less meetings to attend.

So if I called they’d answer the phone.


Apart from being an unexpected bonus this meant I could check what was really happening on the ground – as opposed to what was being reported in the press – be clear from them what was coming next and do a needs analysis by stealth.


Governors were also isolated – much of their networking and professional development had stopped – and the mission was now way different and the stakes even higher.


Different times need different measures and I’d made a career out of doing stuff differently. I’d also spent two decades doing corporate coaching in one form or other.

I figured I had the mindset and the skillset and I knew where the need was.

I also had some funding from our corporate sponsor.

I needed help – that would be Chris – and I needed a start point.


I went with my favorite from The Idiots’ Guide To Coaching:


‘If you need to make a breakthrough but you don’t know how to start just do the opposite to the historical norm and the pieces of the solution will present themselves.’


The initial advocate group of 3 has now grown so we are about to enter the second phase of this work. It has been a big shift and one that was in no way planned – but it means we can continue to actively contribute rather than cheering from the sidelines.


BOOKS-2