Alumni Network Meetings
Each quarter PET invites people we’ve supported in the past to come along to a social meeting to get to know us better, network with each other and find out about opportunities to get more involved in what we do. Here's what happened at a recent meeting:
We welcomed seven of our alumni who had benefitted from support ranging from producing artworks to courses in social work whilst they were in prison. The group included a prisoner who had been granted temporary leave that day, a man who had just been released prison, two people who had been out for six months, and three people who had been living in their communities for several years.
Since leaving prison six years ago, Graham Godden has dedicated his time to empowering vulnerable young people to reduce their risk of offending and has set up a charity that employs other ex-prisoners to help him do it.
A Future through education
One of his employees, also a PET alumnus, is Marticka Sampson. Both Graham and Marticka had negative experiences of education when they were young and through the support of staff and charities in prison, achieved qualifications that have helped them on release. Marticka has specifically developed a course that teaches young women and girls about self-esteem, relationships and abuse to stop them becoming exploited, like she was.
Following introductions, we kicked off the meeting with a screening of a short documentary about their work at the charity YES+ 'A Future through education' and then had a Q&A with Graham and Marticka about their respective experiences, what it was like setting up the charity and working in the not-for-profit sector. (Watch the film). The rest of the group found the information thought-provoking and inspirational, and PET is now producing a ‘hints and tips’ document for its alumni who may be interested in volunteering or working for charities.
Emilie, a volunteer who helped out at the meeting, said: “I found this to be one of the most striking things that the alumni had in common; a will to make use of their education in a way that has potential to make a difference, whether it be through educating the next generation or perhaps confronting the negative image of prisoners among the general public.”
One of the challenges they raised, is the fact that many ex-prisoners are not allowed to go back into prisons, despite the fact that by doing so, they could tell their stories and inspire others to succeed. We told the group that this is an issue PET's policy team will seek to address.
One of PET’s current learners who came to the event on ROTL said: “That help that was given to me, I now want to give back to the system.”
This led to a conversation about how beneficial it would be for others to hear inspirational stories like Graham’s, such as families, to help them with reconciliation and how important it is that prison officers find out who has succeeded outside, rather than just always seeing the same people returning to custody. Talking about her desire to show particular prison officers who supported her and the Governor what she has gone on to achieve, Marticka says: “That would give them belief, that everyone isn’t the same.”
For more information on the network Contact Katy Oglethorpe. Thank you!