Phil started volunteering at the Sue Ryder charity shop in Loughborough
in October 2010 after joining the charity's Prison Volunteer Programme as part of
his rehabilitation programme.
"I left school when I was 16, I've never really
enjoyed studying and I liked the idea of starting to earn my own money as soon as
possible. I worked for the same company for almost 14 years as part of the technical
team repairing and maintaining fork lifts. I really enjoyed my job and built excellent
relationships with colleagues and clients."
Phil spent 3.5 years in the Prison Service. In order to facilitate Phil’s
integration back in the community, Phil was offered the opportunity to do some
voluntary work before his release.
"My first day in the shop, I was really concerned about staff and volunteers' reactions
to my presence. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I expected people to be quite
suspicious and wary around me. After all, I appreciate some people may have never
been in contact with someone who spent some time in prison and may be worried at
the idea of having to work with one. But my fears disappeared very quickly. I was
treated like everyone else helping in the shop. Even better, I felt that people trusted
me. It was nice to be in a place where you were not constantly told what to do.
"I think that schemes like the prison volunteer programme are really important for
prisoners. It allows prisoners to gradually adjust again to the quick pace of life
outside prison. In prison you are told what to do all the time, when to eat and are
really isolated from the rest of the world.
"When I start my sentence in 2008, people didn’t use smart phones. It may sound like
a silly thing to say, but actually when I came out the first time, I was puzzled by all
these people constantly updating their Facebook page and Twitter account. And I am
fairly young, can you imagine the shock for someone who comes out from prison and
has been in jail for a few years? If in three years the world has changed so quickly,
can you imagine what can happen in ten years for instance?
"I fully appreciate why schemes like the one run by Sue Ryder really help people to
gradually integrate in the community."
Debt to society
Whilst in placements, carefully risk-assessed prisoners are able to repay a debt to
society by working within their community. This helps prisoners to improve their
confidence and self-esteem. It helps them to make worthwhile reparation for the
crime they carried out in the past.
The experience gained by offenders also adds to their chances of finding a job when
they are released, which is a major element in reducing the rates of offending.
Indeed, finding a job is the single most important factor in re-offending - it can cut the
rate by up half.
Ex-offenders are 13 times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the
population. Half of all prisoners don’t have the skills required for 96 per cent of jobs.
After his release, Phil was offered a job with Sue Ryder as an electrical P.A.T. tester
and van driver covering the East Midlands area.
Phil added: "I was really pleased when I was offered the chance to apply for a
permanent position. It’s great to be busy. I would have struggled to find a job straight
away after my release. And in the future if I want to move on to a different job, it will be
really important to be able to provide references to any potential employer.
"One of the main concerns for everyone who is coming out from prison is to find a job.
You expect it will be difficult as probably people won't trust you. If you want to rebuild
a life for yourself and your family, to find a job is the first step. Programmes like
this play a vital role towards helping prisoners to build a life of their own."