Stuck Again

By Andy Mouncey, March 2, 2021

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – just go with me here please - came into force in the early 70’s. Essentially it boiled down to the nuclear powers at the time saying to the rest of the world: ‘We’ve got them, you can’t have them and you gotta promise never to try get them.’ 

Or scoring the winning goal in the first half and then declaring the game over taking the ball home with you.

‘Kinda feels like that here at the moment albeit with somewhat lower stakes.

We’d been about to go public with news of our partnership with one of the big four London-based auditors who will be supporting our work with prison governors. This has been a long time in the making and has the potential to transform our work: This firm will bring their people (as professional mentors) and funding to the partnership.

So it’s big stuff.

Unique for the sector.

Probably gonna shake some trees too.

Then some people who we respect and who know about these things said:

‘Er, do HM Prison & Probation Service know about this?’ 

Well, I have been trying to give them a chance to support the work – I was asked for a formal proposal back in October, remember?

(The reply to that arrived early Feb but that’s another rant). 

‘Really think it would be a good idea to get their blessing before they read about it in the press’

Well, I have been trying…

‘No Andy, you’re listening but you ain’t hearing: Pause the work, get the blessing from the right people THEN you can do the fanfare bit. There’s too much at stake here.’



Then around the same time some more people who know about this stuff and who we respect said:

‘And after doing this work for nearly a year now it would be a very good idea to be formally contracted.’

Well, I have been trying…

You get the idea.

Eventually I wound up in touch with The Keeper Of The Big List (of approved suppliers to HMPPS) who also happens to be one of those very big firms that provide professional development services to very big firms.

‘I’m told we need to be on this List,’ I said.

‘The List is closed’ came the reply.

Well that sucks.

Apparently we need the blessing and we don’t get the blessing till we’re official and we can’t get official ‘cos someone’s called time on the game.

Meanwhile the need for the work is escalating and still no-one else is doing what we’re doing in the way that we’re doing it for the people we’re doing it for.

And having the impact.

Time to pull some levers then and share the problem with folks we have touched.

Please solve it for us, we said.

And off they went.

Then we did the same with our intended future partner who we knew was wise in these matters.

Please solve it for us, we said.

And off they went too.

In the meantime we had a decision to make about the work: 

Do we just stop? Continue? What about fees? What about our governors? 

What about the commitments we’d already made to them?

We are acutely aware that through this work we have a unique insight into what is happening inside our jails: To the leadership, staff and serving prisoners.

This is arguably a once-in-a-generational challenge – the scale and human cost of which is still emerging. Studies are now starting to quantify that cost for those behind bars here’s the thing: We’ve not seen an equivalent carried out for prison staff and their leadership teams.

But we know.

We know because we’re speaking to prison governors damn near every week and have been for the last 10months.

We know because we’ve learned that actually the most powerful thing we can do - once we had their trust - is just to shut up and let them speak from the heart to us and their peers.

Because they don’t do this anywhere else, they really need to do it now and they’re gonna need it in the future.

We know because they tell us.

It didn’t take much thinking about: We make good on those commitments and continue the work on our time to Easter. We’d figure out the rest along the way. Everyone we respect on this tells us that they think There Is A Way – and when I pause between bouts of teeth-grinding so do I.

Then this week I’m introduced to someone at HMPPS who seems to get how we are stuck and gives a damn enough to help us get un-stuck.

In part because he can see how we can make his life easier.

Please solve this for us, I said.

There Could Be A Way, he said.

And off he went.

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 

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

2021 January: First funding awarded for Covid19 response work HMP Brinsford

The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 37

Funding Bids Successful: 1

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

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