Voluntary Action Leeds has launched an innovative project which aims to help prisoners and ex-offenders change their lives through volunteering.
The centre has established the world’s first volunteer centre inside a prison at HMP Leeds, run by prisoners, which provides opportunities, advice and training for prisoners who are considering volunteering when they are released.
The project also provides a support network, training and mentoring for organisations who work with volunteers to enable them to work with prisoners and ex-offenders.
The idea is to break down barriers and discrimination around recruiting people with convictions, helping to give often marginalised people the skills, experience and confidence they need to turn their lives around. In doing so, it aims to break the cycle of reoffending, tackle social exclusion and transform lives – while at the same time giving charities access to a largely untapped pool of volunteers.
Following the project’s inception in July 2013, in its first nine months it has supported 42 organisations across West Yorkshire to take on men and women with convictions, created three leading toolkits to share learning and supported 62 people to overcome their barriers to volunteering, giving over 2,000 hours of time.
The project is in its infancy, but so far the reoffending rate is 0%. The cost of 62 places in prison is over £2,000,000 which the project has potentially saved the Ministry of Justice.
Voluntary Action Leeds is now looking to set up a second prison-based volunteer centre in West Yorkshire, expanding its impact across Yorkshire and Humber in a wider area and specialising its support for certain groups, including young offenders.
This project was awarded £49,536.48 in round one and £48,414 in follow on funding to support expansion.
Prison Project Coordinator