Performance of Adele’s “Someone Like You” at one of our concerts.
See more videos on our Vimeo channel.
Our work in prisons stands in its own right, but it is the combination of our prison activities with our post-release work that has such an impact. This post-release work is extremely varied and is based around the needs of the individual.
Imagine you have been in prison for a number of years; all your friends are there – other prisoners, officers, chaplains, teachers etc. Then one day you’re removed from all these people, and from a fixed regime, to freedom and responsibility. Add to that the fact you will be unlikely to have a job (only 36% of prisoners go into education, training or employment on release) and there is a good chance you are homeless (30% of ex-prisoners are). Is it surprising that 61% of offenders re-offend within two years?
As one prisoner put it “you get all this support in jail, then when you walk out the prison gates, nothing – except you guys”. Well it’s not true to say we are the only ones providing this support, but what we provide can, and does, make the difference between re-offending and going straight.
It is the continuity of building relationships on the inside and being there after release that makes the difference – we sometimes even meet ex-prisoners at the gate when they are released. We are not strangers; they know and trust us.
In addition we have a shared love of music, and as we hold a concert or other event every few months there will be a positive event to focus on as they try to acclimatise to life outside.
While music rarely provides direct answers to the many practical challenges ex-offenders face, it can give them a reason to make the effort to change, and motivation is the foundation for all change.
Yet there is also a significant practical element to our post release work. Concerts provide ex-prisoners with real opportunities to create links with local community and faith groups. Regular one-to-one music sessions provide motivation and inspiration to counter the lethargy and depression that is common in the critical first few months after release. Learning to perform vastly improves self-esteem and communication skills, as does playing in a group (see How music can reduce re-offending for more information).
Over the last 4 years we have held 29 concerts/events and over 1,100 individual sessions and contacts, 316 of these in the last year. In addition to the concerts, music provides us with many varied opportunities to help people. These have included:
- monthly post-release band sessions in both Winchester and Bristol, where ex-prisoners continue to engage with us and each other in a familiar musical setting
- providing the music at the wedding of an ex-prisoner
- signposting ex-prisoners to specialist agencies
- hosting open Q&A sessions with a panel of ex-prisoners, helping the public to better understand issues around offending and prison
- a regular booking playing the background music in a local restaurant
- helping ex-prisoners to record professional quality studio albums of their own music (which you can download here)
- enabling an ex-prisoner play a gig to raise funds for a training course
- an ex-prisoner has become a trustee of Changing Tunes
- involving ex-prisoners in conferences – talking and singing about their lives to professionals in the criminal justice sector, including our own “Close To The Edge” conference in 2010.
- helping negotiate places in hostels for homeless ex-prisoners
- improving the likelihood of employment through a music-based course which mirrors the skills required in job hunting – research, written skills, answering questions about yourself and presentation skills
- performance and debate at a school sixth form
- participating in church services
Statistics on this page were taken from the 2010 Bromley Briefing of the Prison Reform Trust.
Click here to download the factfile from the Prison Reform Trust website