Drifting, Doldrums & Tambourines

By Andy Mouncey, September 3, 2019

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.





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’. 



‘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?


Is the problem still there?


Do you still believe in your solution?

F**k, yeah.

So what’s your problem then?


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.

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