Our vision and approach
We work with men and women in prison or recently released, with the aim of helping them live crime-free lives.
In prison, we will try to sort out the details that will get in the way of a successful release. We try to get the basics right: valid ID documents, accommodation and conversations with their partner about how the family will cope when he (or she) comes home.
On release we will meet some of the ex-prisoners at the gate. This isn’t suitable for everyone – some are met by families – but for many people, the first day can be quite difficult, with probation appointments and the need to sort out accommodation.
Within a week of release we will meet the ex-prisoner to provide support. This will focus on two areas: helping them get a job and providing an opportunity for them and their partner to work on their relationship. The support will be a mixture of one-to-one and group work, and we will also identify suitable training opportunities for the ex-prisoner, if this is likely to be a good step towards employment.
For some people we may need to refer them for specialist help (such as mental health or drugs), but we aim to reduce the “handovers” as much as possible, as our Members find it incredibly frustrating to have to keep on telling their story and filling in yet more assessment forms.
Only Connect exists to help people who have been in prison to lead crime-free lives. We do this by providing support and training opportunities, with a particular focus on helping our Members get jobs and strengthening their relationships.
Why jobs and relationships?
All the research on how people progress on the journey to lead crime-free lives highlights the importance of jobs and relationships. With jobs, it gives them purpose and a future, a stake in society, money, new, pro-social friendships and takes up time and energy.
The research also shows that relationships, and especially intimate relationships, are crucial. For adult men, a strong relationship is a major factor in desistance, and for young people good relationships with their parents makes a huge difference to the likelihood of re-offending.
The principles we go by are:
1) Handshake not handout.
In other words, we are not going to do things to people or for people, but with them, as equals. Change is difficult, and we won’t try to make people change. We want to be there with them, to help them, if they want our help.
2) It’s got to work.
We’re not interested in doing things that don’t work. This means three things:
We want to know it is working by having real, robust evidence
We want to know why it is working, so it has to have a sensible theory behind it
It’s got to work for others. We want our ideas to influence the way prisoners are treated nationally and so we are aiming to create models that can be rolled out across the country.
3) We want to be excellent
We want to provide a superb service that really helps our Members. This means we need to learn from our mistakes, provide training for our staff and review our performance.