Who we are?
The Growth Project is led by Penal Reform Solutions, an organisation that grows positive cultures collaboratively. We specialise in working with organisations in the UK to support them in transforming their culture, to create conditions of personal growth for all.
Penal Reform Solutions is led by Dr Sarah Lewis. Sarah has worked within Criminal Justice for the past 14 years and as senior academic, researched why Norwegian Prisons are effective places to rehabilitate people. Norwegian prisons are some of the most effective and humane prisons in the world and boast a 20% re-conviction rate (compared to about 60% in England and Wales). In 2016, Penal Reform Solutions went to an English prison to use this knowledge to inform our prisons, at a time when prisons were experiencing high levels of violence, harm and drug use and little space for personal growth. From this work we developed the Principles of Growth- these principles have been found to support growth and rehabilitation and our aim is to brighten them within prisons, to address the risks of offending and support the development of staff. (See https://www.penalreformsolutions.com/the-growth-project for more details).
What we stand for?
Penal Reform Solutions embraces the voices of those that come into prisons (staff, residents, families and visitors), to find sustainable solutions to the inherent problems of prison. It is informed by research and aims to create conditions to support personal growth, so that prisoners leave prison and do not go on to commit future harms. We want to extend our work into schools and focus on prevention, in order to reduce harm in our communities.
We carried out a pilot project, set in a Category C prison in 2016 and we have successfully contributed to an improved environment and engaged the prison community in focusing on humane practices, which support growth. It has done this by ;
Designing and facilitating training that empowers staff, building resilience and teamwork.
Delivering advisory services for organisations wanting to develop and enhance their culture.
Offering through-care support to prisoners and opportunities them future employment within prison reform.
Work with prisoners, to develop a positive identity, promote their well-being and provide them opportunities to 'do good' for the community.
The positive impact of the Prison Growth Project after only 18 months were:
• Greater education around rehabilitative culture. • Increased joint working and unity. • Better relationships between staff and residents. • Assisting with dynamic security. • Positive change to the identity of the prison. • A greater awareness and appreciation of rehabilitation. • The development of positive staff attitudes. • An appetite for change, a greater focus on well-being and community. • Reducing anti-social behaviours in residents. • Embracing diversity and ethical practice. • Greater meaning to prison. • A focus on the principle of normality.
One prisoner said; “In twelve years in prison I have never come across anything like the growth project; it has helped towards establishing a rehab culture and is rehabilitating inmates/ residents.” An officer also commented; “I think growth is a positive opportunity to allow change and development within our environment and to build a culture we can be proud of.”
Please have a look at our website for testimonials, publications and more information- www.penalreformsolutions.com
In addition to the Prison Growth Project, our ambition is to also work within schools. We recruit people who have come out of prison, to use their lived experience to inform others of prison and offending, whether that be around issues of knife crime, gang culture or offending generally. There is a clear link between school exclusion and offending, with 85% of prisoners being excluded from school at least once in their lives. Therefore, we want to extend our Growth Project into schools, to develop the principles of growth as a preventative strategy to social exclusion and harm. We have worked with a number of prisoners who would like to use their past experiences to be part of the solution and help support those in threat of exclusion, to consider their life choices.
Why we need your help?
This year we have had over 7 prisons interested in working with us, but these prisons do not have funding available for such projects. We also have a number of schools who would like to develop their growth culture and similarly, are struggling with funding. We have a number of people (Criminal Justice practitioners and prisoners) who want to work for the Growth Project, to make meaningful changes to people's lives. We believe passionately and without hesitation that this project makes a difference to the lives of staff and prisoners and has a wider impact on families and the outside community. We need help to keep the Project going and extend the pilot out into other prisons and schools. Your money will supplement these project and help us to expand, so that we can continue the work that we believe is essential within schools and prisons.
Ultimately, we want to drive positive culture change within schools and prisons. We want to support and build positive, skilled staff, who deserve to be heard and be a part of growth within their institution. We also want to create safer communities, where ex-prisoners feel that they belong to our community and children are provided the right conditions to grow and find purpose.