KeepOut is the first-ever crime diversion scheme to be delivered by dedicated teams of serving prisoners managed by civilian staff inside UK prisons.
The KeepOut team at HMP Lewes received a grant of £4,000, from the William Reed and Marit and Hans Rausing Funds towards the costs of a programme for youngsters aged 13-17 who are involved in committing crime, or at serious risk of offending, in Sussex. The courses are designed to help them stop their offending behaviour and to assist them with making important choices about their future. The young people attend a one-day session at HMP Lewes and take part in interactive workshops facilitated by the trained team of serving prisoners, as part of a planned programme of learning.
A Category B local men’s prison, HMP Lewes holds people on remand to the local courts, as well as sentenced prisoners. One of those is Jason*, one of five serving Lewes prisoners on the current KeepOut team. Sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended tariff of 14 years for murder under joint enterprise legislation, Jason is clear about wanting to help young people make different choices to the ones he made. “I made five bad choices in the space of 13 minutes which changed my life,” he says.
“The courses we offer are about getting the young people to understand the consequences of their offending on others, to grasp that they have choices over their actions and what the consequences for them are if they make the wrong choices,” says Support Worker Megan Everett (pictured here), who supports Operations Manager Angela Blakemore to run the programme at HMP Lewes. “Hearing the first-hand experiences from serving prisoners, who run the workshops using role-play and other interactive activities, really helps them to understand that prison is not glamorous and this is not a road they would want to go down.”
Since the launch of KeepOut at HMP Lewes in 2011, over 1,500 young people from the Sussex area have attended the one-day interventions. The evaluation study shows that 89% of those who had attended stated that they learned something positive at KeepOut to help them in their own lives.
“Our 2012 evaluation report places an emphasis on changes in behaviour and offending rates amongst the young attendees,” says Angela. “But the effect on the participating prisoners is also particularly satisfying.” The skills the prisoners learn – it’s a five day a week, full time commitment – are highly transferable: facilitating, public-speaking, communicating, and mentoring.
“In 2014 we followed up KeepOut prisoners who had taken part in the scheme between 2011 and 2013 to measure their progress towards rehabilitation, the results showed that none of the ex-team members had reoffended (compared to the national average of over 55%) and all of them were either in education, employment or training.”
*name has been changed