The help of Friends of Guys Marsh in the rehabilitation of prisoners
PUBLISHED: 10:20 23 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:20 23 September 2016
Friends of Guys Marsh help in the successful rehabilitation of prisoners - from strengthening family bonds to training in practical skills that can be used when they re-enter society, as Jonathan Davies reveals
HMP Guys Marsh is a Category C secure prison situated just outside Shaftesbury. It is a resettlement prison, housing nearly 600 inmates and providing work opportunities for some 80% of them.
The average length of sentence at Guys Marsh is around 15 months. The men there are either prisoners who have committed minor crimes and are on short sentences or, those coming to the end of a lengthy incarceration, and looking to move to an Open Prison thereafter.
Like all prisons in the country, Guys Marsh suffers from a significant shortage of prison staff as well as having to cope with drug problems amongst the prisoners, exacerbated by the flood of ‘legal highs’ now in circulation.
Friends of Guys Marsh (FOGM) was set up some 15 years ago by a group of enlightened men and women who were all involved with the jail in various voluntary roles. Whilst only one of the founding members remains from the original five or six, the charity’s focus and direction has remained the same - namely to help positively in the successful rehabilitation of prisoners. Our aim is to ensure that prisoners on their release do not return, rather they take their life back and successfully re-enter society.
FOGM seeks to help prisoners in terms of their personal and social rehabilitation and this is pursued in a number of ways. Firstly, we focus on helping the family. There is a firm belief that if a prisoner can maintain strong links with his family that allows him, on release, to return successfully to them and he is less likely to reoffend.
To that end we support families on prison visiting days with a shuttle bus service between Gillingham station and the prison; in conjunction with the Mothers’ Union we also provide refreshments at the Visitors’ Centre as well as toys and games for the children.
In addition we’re involved, hand-in-hand with Barnardo’s, at the monthly Family Days. These events, which are held in the prison’s gym, last some five hours and really allow prisoners and their families to bond successfully together.
Inside the jail, our focus is to support activities that make life more tolerable for inmates as well as to fund broad-based educational activities that allow a prisoner to secure a qualification which will have real value on release.
Thus, we have backed music and art classes, we’ve provided equipment for the gym, we’ve backed the trialling of Mindfulness courses as well as a very successful weekly yoga classes.
In terms of educational courses, a recent success was the reopening of the onsite Barber’s Shop. This had been closed for some four years. With support from management it has reopened with tools funded by us; the 11-week courses, resulting in an NVQ 2 qualification, are over-subscribed and prisoners are now looking much smarter!
Our circle of Friends supports us financially, but we are always on the lookout for additional volunteers to help in our daily activities.
About Jonathan Davies
Jonathan Davies, acting Chair of FOGM, moved to the area some six years ago after a career in advertising. Looking for a new challenge, he joined the charity as a Trustee. He emphasises the very real, emotional satisfaction that can be gained from meeting and helping men who have maybe lost their way but who are genuinely looking for ways to get back into society.
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