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: Wayyyy too far in to give up now…
Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 19
Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4
Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2
Why Are You Here?
I’ve had a long time to go to work on my own inside and figure this one out and a fair few encounters to test how it hangs together when I speak it out loud.
My questioner is one of the 12 men sitting in front of me in the immaculate sports hall at HMP Stafford – the group I will be working with later this month – and this is us at First Encounter stage.
So I choose from my files, look him in the eye and pray at least some of my answer resonates:
‘You’re all going to be released – most people on the inside are – and right now the figures tell us that 6 out of every 10 will re-offend and be back inside in a year. Now I’m a husband and a father…’ (Too late a warning light flashes and a little voice wonders if that was too much information Andy? There are rules about that here…Well, it’s out now so I plough on doing Direct & From The Heart knowing that these men can smell bullshit a mile off).
‘…and if you’re going to be my neighbor I want you playing by the same rules as I do. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder. Now I can bitch about that or help do something about it. I have done some stuff in an open prison before which showed me that I have something that will improve your chances on the outside. We want to figure out what that might look like here at Stafford and we want your help to do that.’
Pause and smile.
‘If you’ve got the time, that is.’
Hints of smiles to go with my small sigh of relief. That seemed to work…
I’m here for half a day doing some essential pre-start planning with Gavin who heads up the PE team. I could do this from 150miles away but I need to experience the place again and Gavin needs to be reassured that three days in my company is indeed going to hit the spot on many levels and he doesn’t need to have eyes and ears in the back of his head any more than usual.
And I’ve asked to meet the men that Gavin has recruited from criteria that we’ve agreed.
While this bit is clearly bloody crucial, the meat of this visit is this:
I’ve brought a draft Cunning Plan for Gavin to throw rocks at.
Before any throwing starts however, we’re going to do what any good planning process should do: Start At The End (With Success In Mind).
‘So Gavin: What does a successful 3 days for you look like?’
Now I know this already ‘cos I’ve asked him before – but I like to check, he may have changed his mind and I’m acutely aware that I need to role model every relevant aspect of my world and my skillset. And when we’re talking High Performance, this is just standard good practice.
‘What about your team?’
Then we clear the decks so the throwing can start.
Actually, it’s all pretty painless:
‘A pre-breakfast early workout – outside if possible?’
Yes. Need to make some adjustments to the un-locking routine on the wing but it can happen.
‘Communal eating for all meals?’
This is a biggie for me – so much can be achieved sitting down together over shared food – and to Gavin’s credit he only flinches slightly.
‘Okayyyy…need to think this through some more and speak to Catering…’ So we do just that later on and come away with a thumbs-up.
‘Outside options through the day?’
Yes. There is an astro turf yard right outside.
And so it goes on with remarkably little sticking points – and while admittedly I’m not exactly starting from scratch knowledge-wise when designing something for a place like this, it is still very reassuring when an hour or so later Gavin and I are looking at a workable plan.
Or as they say in the movies: This shit just got real.