Paul, one of our HMP Academy Managers, explains his role – overseeing operations and delivering personalised support for men in prison:
“I take a lot of pride in my job. We’re in a really privileged position to be able to help people.
“As an Academy Manager you’ve got a job that’s both operational and pastoral. We oversee the day-to-day delivery of contracts, covering everything from stock management, quality control, health and safety, to personnel management. But we also guide and mentor participants, motivating offenders on their journey.
“My particular workshop – in HMP Buckley Hall, a men’s prison – processes waste gas and electric meters for British Gas – scanning and dismantling them for recycling. But personally I like my role to be mainly people-focussed.
“I previously worked in the police so I use some of that experience in dealing with things in the workshop. I did anticipate some of the men being difficult to work with when I first started, and to a certain extent this did prove to be true. But with gentle persuasion I’ve been able to turn most of them into good grafters. Ensuring they’re clear on the advantages of working with us, both within prison and after release, helps. So does a positive, fair atmosphere.
“I always instill in people that work is better and easier if we’re all working with a smile on our faces. And they know I wouldn’t expect them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.
“From our initial interview with participants we’re getting to know them better and better all the time – learning how best to motivate and challenge them. A big part of this is the time we spend getting to know each one. Once a participant is in our workshop, they’re part of the Recycling Lives family.
“It’s very different to the relationships prison officers have with them. We do deal with lots of other professionals in the prison though – the heads of resettlement and industries, key workers, logistics teams, members of the education department – and we have good working relationships.
“Those relationships with the other professionals, both in and outside the prison, is, I believe, where we’re most different. By involving prison staff, probation workers and, eventually, employers we demonstrate and further the progress each man makes.
“The workshops really set people up for a changed life – the work experience helps in finding work and the bonuses for hitting targets can be used for a car or a deposit on a flat on release. This then assists in them not reoffending, which is the overall aim of our work.
“That all starts with us Academy Managers, as their first mentors.
“I absolutely love my job. The job satisfaction of putting somebody back on the straight and narrow and back into his family’s arms is so very rewarding.
“I once received a Christmas card from one of the men, following his release, thanking me for all the work and effort I had put into him. It brought a tear to my eye and gave a warm glow to my life for a long time.”