Our project helping prisoners in HMP Huntercombe with resettlement advice has won second prize in the Prison Reform Trust’s 2016 Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation. The award was presented today (Tuesday 23 February) in the Houses of Parliament. It beat 53 other nominations from across the prison estate to win the prize.

It trains men serving in HMP Huntercombe to become qualified advice workers known as Peer Advisors who support fellow prisoners with issues such as housing, maintaining family contact and immigration. Funded by The Bell Foundation, it is part of charity St Giles Trust’s Peer Advisor Programme.

HMP Huntercombe is home to foreign national prisoners of 80 different nationalities who speak 40 different languages and come from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds. The project helps the men to support each other, build an atmosphere of trust and create a positive environment. It aims to reduce re-offending and increase the likelihood of the men successfully resettling in the community.

Ex-offenders often face discrimination when they look for employment. The Peer Advisors trained at HMP Huntercombe achieve an internationally recognised qualification which has helped them find work after their release.

One of the men trained who has now been released said:

“I have successfully secured a paid job just 28 weeks after my release. My relationship with my family is growing stronger and St Giles Trust is still available for any help or assistance I will need in the future.”

Diana Sutton, Director of The Bell Foundation said

“We are delighted to be funding this innovative and important project as part of our Language for Change programme. St Giles work is enabling people to mentor others and is an important example of what can be achieved by prisoners for prisoners.”

Rob Owen OBE, Chief Executive of St Giles Trust, said:

“I am delighted that this very important, innovative part of our Peer Advisor Programme has reached the finals of such a prestigious award. The needs of foreign national prisoners are often little understood so I hope this accolade will help bring attention to them and enable us to develop our work further in this area.”

The winner of the top prize in this year’s Robin Corbett Awards was London-based charity Switchback for their work in HMP/YOI Isis in south east London. Switchback uses catering, combined with intensive mentoring, to help prisoners into training and employment on release.

Chair of the judges, Lady Corbett, said:

“In a year of strong nominations, the judges were unanimous in their decision to award Switchback and St Giles Trust first and second prize. My husband Robin thought prison should be a chance to change the direction of a life. Both charities are outstanding examples of what can be achieved by helping prisoners to help themselves.”

Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“In a bleak prison landscape it’s good to see people doing time rather than wasting time. Gaining skills and confidence and putting a sentence to good use has got to be a better way to reduce re-offending than long hours spent behind bars.”