The life journey towards a custodial sentence is often fraught with abuse, violence and emotional turbulence – prisoners may be victims long before they become perpetrators of crime. Many prisoners, particularly those serving substantial custodial sentences, can be resistant to change, and struggle to find motivation via behavioral models used in prisons.

ISCRE has over 12 years’ experience working in prisons, facilitating and delivering powerful interventions that develop trust and credibility with prisoners. We have found that engaging prisoners in activities that teach them to critically evaluate their lives and provide a platform for their ‘creative articulation’ can significantly improve their self-concept, and provide the impetus to engage more proactively with their rehabilitation.

In March 2017, we ran narrative sharing workshops with prisoners at Highpoint, culminating in a performance in front of an audience of community organisations and prison staff. Participants reported a sense of pride in the chance to share their stories in a safe and supportive environment.
In feedback from an event at Warren Hill prison on 27/7/17, prisoners told us they want means to communicate their cultural and religious needs more clearly to prison staff. Effective communication skills enable prisoners to better manage their emotions and find alternatives to violence.

There has been a dramatic rise in gun and knife crime among young people in parts of Suffolk. The number of violent and sexual crimes being reported in south west Ipswich, for example, has more than quadrupled over the past two years: in November 2015, 105 such crimes were reported, a rise of more than 78% from November 2013.
Meta-More-Force builds on ISCRE’s expertise in facilitating ‘discovering narrative’ workshops in prisons, to explore the experiences, voices, and fears of men journeying through the prison system. We will be supported by Black Theatre Live and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds to deliver a parallel community focused initiative for young people at risk of offending in Suffolk.

Meta: Workshops hosted by ISCRE with young people at risk of offending, to encourage them to explore their life journeys, articulate their aspirations and fears for their futures. These themes will, in turn, inform the work with the adult prisoners.

More: Experienced facilitators from ISCRE and Black Theatre Live will run workshops with prisoners to support them to embrace the art of storytelling. They will tell their stories through writing, reading, poetry, song writing and life mapping.

Force: Actors will support prisoners to perform their stories for members of the community, service providers and prison staff. Evidence shows that it is empowering and therapeutic to see your story on stage. Performances will be digitally recorded and shared with an audience of young people who participated in workshops, members of the community, ex-offenders, Suffolk Police, Suffolk Youth Offending Service and other service providers at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, followed by discussion, reflection and Q&A about the production.

Meta-More-Force: By exploring the discrepancy between current circumstances and future aspirations with both the young people and prisoners, the project gives each group the chance to develop their critical thinking capacities towards how they will achieve more positive future outcomes and the changes required. The intervention provides a foundation for connections to be made between young people at risk of offending and those serving custodial sentences, and who have experienced the extremes of being both offender and victim of crime. As part of the intended outcomes, risk factors are explicitly actualised through the lives and voices of prisoners, creating motivation for young people to find alternative pathways to offending. Beneficial to the project is ISCRE’s continued presence in the prisons concerned.