11 October 2018
When my degree came to an end in 2012, I was keen to jump straight into work and put the Criminology and Criminal Justice theory I’d learned into action. It was around then that I came across Catch22 – and straight away the organisation’s approach stood out from the crowd. The organisations vision is a strong society where everyone has a good place to live, a purpose and good people around them. We call this the 3 P’s, and it’s a simple and clear message which applies to both the people we support and our staff.
I know from experience that Catch22 recognise, develop and reward their staff- whether it be via progression routes or offering opportunities to train and learn from colleagues. I’ve learned a lot from experts at the organisation- not just in social justice, but across our vast footprint that includes education, employability and children and families services.
My first role with Catch22 was as a Case Administrator within the custodial Offender Management Unit (OMU), which gave me a really good grounding in the everyday processes which are vital for prisons to operate effectively. Over the following 6+ years, I’ve worked across a number of frontline roles both within prisons and the community. I’ve directly supported service users with a variety of complex issues from substance misuse to employability; always with an ultimate focus of reducing their risk of reoffending.
I returned to HMP Thameside in 2016 to manage the Catch22 resettlement team, however after a few months my role grew into also overseeing our teams at two other London prisons: HMPYOI ISIS and HMYOI Feltham. As Cluster Manager, I led the strategy and operations for all of these resettlement services. Our teams have a strong reputation and align with the prison processes to ensure we’re able to operate effectively together. In January 2018, I transitioned into a new role as the OMU Service Manager, a promotion which gave me a huge amount of pride as I was given the opportunity to lead the service I started at, back in 2012.
A changing system
There have been a number of changes across the whole prison estate since I started my career. I’m proud of how we have responded to these changes. As a third sector organisation delivering Offender Management, an area often fairly prescriptive in nature and dominated by bureaucracy, Catch22 have a unique opportunity to ‘wear two hats’. As well as robust governance and performance measures underpinning our delivery, we also bring a spirit of innovation and act to challenge ineffective processes and maximise the impact we have for those we support
Our resettlement teams work to ‘bring the outside in’, and work with external organisations to deliver a range of programmes. I feel this is absolutely crucial to the effective reintegration of prisoners back into society. It is hugely important to ensure a service user starts building solid connections in the community, and what better place to start than with positive working relationships whilst still in custody.
As we come towards the end of 2018, a new role is on the horizon in the form of being Head of Service at HMP Doncaster. Catch22 delivering Offender Management services started at HMP Doncaster back in 2011, so it’s a real privilege to be moving into such a role. In addition to the OMU function, we also provide a service supporting ex-servicemen called ‘Together Forces’, with a new strand of delivery also being commissioned to provide a gangs and violence reduction service as part of our overall offering. So all in all, it’s a really exciting time and I’m relishing the new opportunity.
Have you got what it takes?
Working in prisons can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle, and I think the qualities you need to succeed are:
Organised. We support thousands of people every year! It is essential that our people remain person centred in their approaches building quality relationships with those we support. This approach is what makes Catch22 unique preventing us from becoming bogged down in some of the more bureaucratic approaches adopted by some of our criminal justice sector partners.
Social and Empathetic. Building relationships with the people we support is crucial for services to actually work. If prisoners don’t feel connected to us, they won’t get the most out of the service or understand what we can help them achieve.
Dynamic. Our sector is challenging. We need people who spot new ways to do things and aren’t afraid to suggest these and challenge the status quo.
Supportive of colleagues. We’re all working towards the same goal, and success means we need to work across organisations and with our colleagues on the wings (residential units) and also in community services such as housing, employment, social care and education.