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By Andy Mouncey, Dec 9 2019 01:30PM

Breaking In

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)

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


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

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


Wymott Expects

It starts as I am escorted from the prison gate to the self-enclosed unit that is the Theraputic Centre inside HMP Wymott.

Wymott is a ‘C’ class of prison – so fairly low level of security – with around 1100 men serving time across the full range of categories. The TC is a 70-bed building housing men 24-7 who are in recovery from addiction and have committed to be so.


Whatever you think of the levels of drug use/abuse in society at large the problem is way worse in prisons for lots of reasons – one of which is the removal of detection-treatment resources as part of the so-called austerity drive of the last decade. We’ve also had the rapid rise in use of new ‘legal highs.’ All this has meant more people inside behaving out of control and less resources to deal with that. This has led to more violence with staff and inmates on the receiving end and yet more sticking plaster solutions as our political leaders run scared from the braying masses.

You could say there is a need.


The TC is something of an island amidst this storm – it has some of it’s own rules and rituals - and it’s where I will be working from next month.

Except some of the men clearly think I start today.


I pick up the odd greeting and comment as I get closer from the small groups on fresh air time. I return these automatically making sure I do eye contact…This is something I’ve worked hard on from the early days: Being proactive with a greeting and eye contact even when I was having kittens inside. It matters...but it still doesn’t register that I’m being greeted by people who seem to know (of) me


Through the door and more of the same – this time very warmly by three members of staff including…

‘This is Mike, Andy – he’ll be with you for the program…’ I register the smile and handshake and the fact that this means I will now have two members of the team with me for the duration – the first being Fi who has been designated Point for this pilot and has met me at the gate today.

She’s also clearly been doing some groundwork.


Fi: ‘We’ve selected the men in buddy pairs as we discussed ‘– (we had) – ‘and we’ve been talking about it quite a lot. They’re really keen to get started’ - she throws me a grin – ‘ as you can see!’

No shit. Which either means she’s done a helluva selling job or they’re just really bored…

As we work our way through the TC the greetings and questions keep coming which is lovely and suprising and…

Not what I asked for or anticipated today.


‘Do you want to meet the men?’ asked Fi when we were discussing today.

‘No.’ I’d said. ‘This is about meeting the key staff, doing the hearts and minds bit and casing the joint. What I learn (today) will inform what I say when I met the men – and when I do meet ‘em I want it to be about them.’

Hmm. Might not be able to hold that line the way this is going…and Fi gives me a nudge:

‘You might want to think about saying a few words…’


Yeah, I might.

Before that though there is the small matter in pitching this thing to key members of staff from across the prison – and while I know Fi has been warming ‘em up this is still crucial First Contact.

I take a deep breath and do what I’ve rehearsed recalling that time-honored advice from HMP Stafford:

‘Just don’t be shit, OK?’

It also helps that Craig from HMP Stafford came up to Wymott with me last month to meet some senior staff and to vouch for what we did:

‘It works, this is how – and you need it’ he’d said.

And here we are.


Over the years I’ve got way better at this bit so now there’s no selling at all. I lay out where we could go and let them figure out a ‘how’ that would work here. An hour and change later and I find myself sitting back in almost wonder as the pieces are being knit together by the people present as yours truly is almost redundant.

Well, almost.

As we start to wrap up Fi catches my eye once again and I know what’s coming:

‘It would be really nice if you could say something to the lads Andy…’


Here’s what sometimes happens at home with our boys at bedtime: They will think of a question to ask Mum or Dad that means they HAVE to come downstairs and take a peek round the living room door to see what the parents are watching on the telly. Oh, and then forget the question.


Well, it’s been a bit like that this afternoon: We’ve had periodic interruptions for seemingly innocuous reasons from folks who are clearly desperate to join the party. And now almost as if by magic as we wind up our session the lads who are due to be Group One have infiltrated the room seemingly by osmosis and are all on the spare chairs looking up at me expectedly.

I look at Fi.

Fi looks at me.

I look at the lads.


Now at this point in the film the tumbleweed blows past to the mournful sound of a tolling bell. Or I remember that if I can’t pull a Hearts & Minds bit out of the hat at a moment notice by now I really need to find a new vocation. So I take a breath, go inside and trust that I can take them where they need to go.


By Andy Mouncey, Nov 13 2019 05:10PM

Breaking In


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 incorporation. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

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

2019: Too far in to give up – so it’s this year or bust!


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

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



This piece was going to be called ‘Sucking Vacuum’ – ‘cos that’s what it’s been like:

Nothing.

Niet.

Nada.

The last few months were summed up in the first few minutes of a recent prison visit.

Here’s the thing about visiting a prison: You can’t just rock up – you make an arrangement which means you are expected. You provide information – often more than once. And if it’s also not your first time you also know what to expect:

Do bring a photo ID.

Do expect to shout through the security screen.

Don’t bring any electronics – or anything else on The Big List Of Dont’s

Do bring a supply of patience.

Do set your Customer Relationship Manager/Front Of House expectations on low.


Now I’ve been kept waiting in prison reception on many occasions for the simple reason that in prison Shit Happens. What that means is any arrangements you make are subject to Shit Not Happening because when Shit Does Happen the ripple effect is usually quite large which means more people are affected which means one of them is likely to be the person you are here to see.


This time Shit Does Indeed Happen and 45 minutes after my allotted time I’m finally met. In that time my two attempts to get information from the Gatehouse team – whose numbers swell to 5-6 of people who appear to be standing round chatting and looking anywhere but the growing crowd of us in reception – are met with bemused indifference that translates to ‘Welcome to our world Mr Community – this is just how we roll...’

So there’s me holding my…while inhaling Information Vacuum with an extra ‘u’ thinking this just about sums up my last few months.


And Justice wonders why prisons struggle to engage with people from their local communities (sigh).


So that’s the stuff I was going to write about – along with the rejected bids, busted deadlines, blown commitments and the general system paralysis that comes with Parliament suspended, political musical chairs, elections and (frightening) partisan policy announcements that have been rubbished countless times by evidence but play beautifully to the zealots in the galleries.


It’s just that writing about shit makes me feel shit – ‘one of the reasons I’m not into counseling – so I’ve held off despite periodic prompts from Authentic Living My Brand Bloke to ‘Write it as it is, man!’

There’s such a thing as ‘over-sharing’ in my book…


Of course there have been moments of light that have warmed my soul and kept me sane and I would have shared – really I would – except I’ve struggled to keep the spark alight against the general trend of pushing water uphill. But even I was getting uncomfortable about the absence of updates so I was girding my loins for a post and then…


There’s nothing like your wife in tears to get your attention.


It started as a perfectly normal Monday morning: Early morning routine, breakfast, boys dispatched to school… and then it wasn’t.


Turns out a perfect storm of sorts had been brewing for Charlotte:

She’d been reading some stuff about children in unregulated care homes that had really rocked her.

We have close friends who are really struggling with their kids.

I’d just come back from presenting my nattily titled workshop ‘Coping With Crap’ to 120 young people at the Teenage Cancer Trust residential weekend ‘Find Your Sense Of Tumour’ – see what they did there?! - and that was a privilege and a pleasure.

She has watched husband’s gradual slide from post successful HMP Stafford pilot in March to battered and bruised from nearly 8 months of successive doors slammed in face.

And while we’ve checked in periodically with each other and I’m way better at processing it than I was, she knows that this period has been the most challenging for me: I’ve done what the skeptics asked for – proved my concept – and still seemingly, no-one wants it.


Mrs Mouncey it seems, had reached the ‘Well f**k ‘em then – I want my husband back’ stage.


I just sat there in almost shock as the tears and permission came:


There are kids in trouble who have been thrown on the scrapheap and that’s just wrong on so many levels.

You’re good.

Your stuff works – you’ve just proved it again this weekend.

We have people on our doorstep who’d welcome what you can give.

Maybe the prisons just aren’t ready – or they really don’t want it.

Forget the grant applications – nobody’s giving and it’s doing your head in.

You want to be out there making a difference – ‘cos you can and you do – not bent over a keyboard…

You don’t have to stop but maybe it’s time to change – to go where you’re wanted.

And if you want to do that then it’s OK by me.

In fact it’s more than OK – I think you should.


There was considerably more to it than that but you get the gist and that’s all you’re getting – ’cos the full version is between Mrs Mouncey and me.


I gave myself two days to process it but clearly word had got out via weird and wonderful forces because before that deadline expired I got this email from HMP Wymott, Lancashire with whom I’d been in on-off discussions for the last 18 months:


Andy, happy to fund ££ for 3 of your short programs Nov-Jan as we discussed. Can you link with __ to finalize delivery plans?


By Andy Mouncey, Sep 17 2019 11:12AM


Red Bull Amaphiko Academy
Red Bull Amaphiko Academy

RedBull - they of energy drinks with gravity-defining aspirations - have a global program that supports social entrepreneurs: People who have creative ideas to help solve the big problems in the world and make a difference to the lives of others.


Around this time last year I was invited to attend one of the 3 Amaphiko Connect UK gatherings in Bradford and despite my shy retiring demeanour I found I stood out for a number of reasons: Baldest, oldest - and the only one not using a phone as a watch.


I figured if I wanted to hook into an existing network where Sport For Development was seen as just normal I might as well go big and global. Our boys were sadly brought back down to earth when they learned that Daddy wasn’t actually going to work for RedBull and therefore wouldn’t have Danny MacAskill’s email address on tap - and they were too young to consume the product anyway (sigh).


RedBull and I have been back and forth since then. I have done an inspirational bit for one of their London-based teams and we now have a commitment to put together a short film on my prison work. (Just need to get some then, Andy doncha).


In the meantime I have shared some of the stuff populating my insides with the big world on the outside in the form of an interview.


Go forth and give wiings to the world, people!



By Andy Mouncey, Sep 3 2019 06:24PM

Breaking In


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 incorporation. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

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

2019: Too far in to give up – so it’s this year or bust


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 21

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2



Drifting, Doldrums & Tambourines

I’d not been idle in the months after the Stafford pilot – really I hadn’t: Buoyed by that success I was pitching, sharing, telling, meeting, bidding, networking, asking…Interest was there, commitments were given – and then those commitments wobbled and deadlines started stretching.

F**k.

B*****d.

W**k.

S**t.

Here we go again…


And that’s WITH latest Proof Of Concept in my back pocket.


Meanwhile the Big Picture indicators of prison life continue to slide:

Self Harm: UP (again)

Self-inflicted Deaths: UP (again)

Assaults (prisoner on staff and prisoner on prisoner): UP – again (and frighteningly so)

Provision of Purposeful Activity Time: Two thirds of prisons missed the target

Number of Older Prisoners: UP (a lot)

Amount of money spent by government on a prison place: DOWN (again)

We continue to send more women to prison for non-violent offences

We still have the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe

Oh yeah – and Ministerial Turnover – which translates to Time On Task to do anything remotely meaningful: Defying description

(Source: MoJ Safety in Custody Quarterly Bulletins, Chief Inspector of Prisons Annual Report, Prison Reform Trust)


And just in case you thought that was all too peachy here’s the real bad news that many in the sector feared was coming from the latest custodian of the keys to Number 10 – (though by the time you read this…)

1. The evidence-based reforms to short-term sentencing to be scrapped.

(Evidence: It just makes the problem – reoffending – worse).

2. More prison places are to be made available.

(Evidence: If you just create more prisons/places you look for people to fill ‘em with…which makes the problem – reoffending – worse).


And all this from a bloke who went to a school that purports to prepare men for a life of public service and who likes to use big words and archaic language to make us think he’s really clever.


And here I am with an innovative and now proven solution to a problem that is still getting worse and will ultimately affect us all.

‘Cos here’s the kicker:

Most of the 83,000 or so people in our prisons will be released – and that could be to a neighborhood near you.

So whaddaya want: You want ‘em to play by the rules or..?


Seven years in, 21 failed funding bids, countless hours and miles on the road and two Proof Of Concept pilot programs with support from leading authority figures in the sector…

And still nobody’s buying.


What - in the name of all that is holy - is it going to take for me to make this F**kin’.

Thing.

Fly.


‘Cheer up.’ Said Anne Fox CEO of Clinks www.clinks.org who have been just bloody brilliant with me. ‘Most people trying to work this sector just give up - and of those of our members that do don’t hardly any work in the prison system. You’re just a great example of why that’s so – ‘cos it’s so flippin’ hard!’


Marshaling my motivation and very mindful of the Kebbell monies heading my way (see blog) I promised myself one last flurry of activity before throwing my toys out of the pram at the end of June:

One more grant bid.

A first pitch for a prison contract via the new MoJ tendering portal.

Three more proposals to three more prisons where I had invitations extended.

Three new in-person meetings in The Big City with two potential partners and one potential advocate.


As I write this I have no news to share on the pre-summer flurry.

I’m as certain as I can be that it wont be The Final Flurry – but it has taken yet another frank and searching discussion with Mrs Mouncey to get me OK with picking this up again:



What’s really changed?

Nothing.

Is the problem still there?

Yes.

Do you still believe in your solution?

F**k, yeah.

So what’s your problem then?

Er…


What my problem actually was was being OK – again – with playing second fiddle in the family breadwinning stakes.

And to continue to be OK with playing second fiddle for a few more months to come.


Or as the shy, retiring family-friendly comedian Chris Rock puts it: ‘Sometimes you just got to be cool with playing the tambourine to her lead guitar.’

‘Cos that’s a partnership, man.


By Andy Mouncey, Aug 5 2019 02:08PM


‘Ohmygodohmygodohmygod it says he’s leading – that can’t be right, can it?

Is this thing working right? Steve…?’

A somewhat flustered Charlotte looks across to our friend Camper Van Steve who is also bent over his phone dot watching the live tracker with a furrowed brow while our boys start to wonder what all the fuss is about.

‘Yep – same here: He’s leading…’

5 miles in and Husband is indeed at the business end.

Oh.My.God.


Meanwhile I was having a happy time completely oblivious to the fact that I was apparently leading. I’d worked my way through to the front but I could still see a couple of figures ahead as we climbed to the high point of the first stage and as far as I was concerned that was the lead. This year the first 60miles were all about a rehearsed Pace – and wherever that put me was wherever that put me. Position would come later.


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