My name is Josh and I have recently started in the new position of Community Connections Officer at HM Prison Bullingdon. The prison, located a few miles from Bicester, is the local resettlement and remand centre for the Thames Valley and surrounding area. We have a population of approximately 900 men aged 18 and above with a mixture of those who are on remand and prisoners who are sentenced by the courts.
The role aims to reduce reoffending by connecting the men in prison and Bullingdon prison leavers to the wide variety of groups in the Oxfordshire community. The local voluntary and community sector offers a whole range of activities and support that can help embed prison leavers into communities once released. However, the closed nature of prisons hinders the reciprocal understanding between the community and the prison environment, and this has caused miscommunication and misunderstanding between organisations, a problem that I hope will be solved with the Community Connections role.
This new role will tackle reoffending in a variety of different methods. The Community Connections Officer will liaise with Prison Officers, supporting them by creating a community map of relevant, willing, and effective external organisations that can help prisoners become part of their community. The aim is to learn about the opportunities and support available for prisoners released into Oxfordshire so they can be easily accessed and appropriate support can be given to individuals in need. In combination with the map the Community Connections Officer will encourage external organisations into HMP Bullingdon and give them opportunities to speak with Prison Officers and prisoners about the work they do thereby improving the reciprocal understanding between the outside and inside. Furthermore, the post gives external organisations a point of contact within the prison to boost the creation of initiatives to help prison leavers upon release. Increasing the networks prison leavers have with their community, not only increases the support the individual can access, but also empowers them by offering other pro-social choices, focussing on positive interactions rather than falling into bad habits and the same circles of damaging behaviour.
If you are interested in knowing more about how you and your organisation can get involved in the project, please email me Joshua.Wainwright@justice.gov.uk
I look forward to hearing from you.