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
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
2016 RFYL Conception
2017 RFYL Community Interest Company incorporation
2018 Doors open – doors close: Repeat
Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 17
Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4
Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2
Dec 10th and MoJ has invited folks from the voluntary sector to get up close and personal with Her Majesty’s Prisons in the fair city of Milton Keynes. Given it’s not untypical to take a week to actually get to talk to the person you want to talk to on the phone in a prison, the prospect of going eyeball to eyeball with only a table between you is an unbelievably juicy prospect. It seems a ton of other folks from voluntary sector providers think the same – I walk into the meeting hall to be met by a wall of noise and a sea of people literally shoulder to shoulder.
Around 25 tables in the room mean representatives from around 25 prisons and the distinguishing feature is Seated=Staff, Standing=Providers. The dominant color is the usual prison service black so true to form and in the interests of being memorable I am in my usual corporate orange.
Being happily married for nearly 20 years means I am seriously out of dating practice – and I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this level of…Feeding frenzy is somewhat melodramatic but it’s on the same continuum for sure!
I take a deep breath, assume a slim profile and still need 6 practice laps of the hall desperately looking for a familiar face before I’m brave enough to spot an opening and grab my first date. Shouting and leaning in is very un-English but the only way bar lip-reading to communicate. I feel for the prison folks for whom this is all an in-at-the-deep-end first – and who will need their vocal chords in the morning.
Of course once over the threshold it all gets easier.
‘We should all have done this ages ago’ remarks one smiling and somewhat croaky Head of Reducing Reoffending. Amen to that.
I give away a handful of business cards, get to practice my pitch again, and realize I can now name-drop around the sector and get attention very quickly.
Worth nine hours in the car? Oh yes – and if I don’t get two new invites from that little lot I’ll be disappointed.