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Did you know that prisoners in England and Wales can spend up to 23 hours a day isolated?
Spark Inside is a charity that provides coaching in prisons across London and the South East to young men aged 15 – 25 with the aim of changing prisoners’ lives, the culture and environment of prison wings, and advocates for change within the criminal justice system through their involvement in communities and in-prison advisory boards. At the end of last year, Kingsley Napley hosted an event with Spark Inside. We had the pleasure of hearing stories from two of the trustees which detailed the work Spark Inside does, but also their personal stories. What struck a chord most was (1) the level of isolation there is within prisons and (2) how difficult it is for people to rebuild their lives following release.
Theorist John Whitmore, the main theorist of coaching, defines coaching as ‘unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance … helping them to learn rather than teaching them .’ With the dedication of their 27 professional coaches, Spark Inside strives to empower youth caught in the criminal justice system. By allowing prisoners the opportunity to express themselves in a safe and non-judgmental environment, prisoners are encouraged to transform their lives for the better and given the tools to do so. Speaking about his own experience, participant Jake says: “I realised there was so much more to life, that there is always a solution to any problem, and that the impossible is possible. The life coaches saw the spark in me that I hadn’t seen in myself for a long time, and it gave me hope that it wasn’t too late to change”. Provision of their award-winning Hero’s Journey™ workshops across HMPs Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs between October 2014 and March 2015 had the remarkable impact of reducing reoffending by one third, six months post-release .
According to the Government’s data, as of May 2020, 51.9% of the youth custodial population were from a BAME background (29% Black, 11.7% Mixed, and 11.2% Asian and Other), compared to 27% in 2009. The general 10–17 population is 82% White, 4% Black, 4% Mixed and 10% Asian and Other . In response to this disparity, Spark Inside introduced Hero’s Journey™ from a Black Perspective, an adaptation of their Hero’s Journey™ programme, for young black men in prison. A pilot was run in early 2020 and as a testament to the charity, there is currently a waiting list of hopeful participants.
In addition to the above, Spark Inside works behind the scenes to influence how criminal justice is approached in the UK. In collaboration with parliamentarians, government officials and other organisations, they seek to alter the public and political conceptualisation of prisons and explore alternative solutions to prevent crime.
We know that there can be a tendency for the general public to think of those in prison as people that deserve to be locked away. Spark Inside urges everyone to consider the background of most young people in prison (the majority have complex needs, come from the care system and/or have mental health problems).
But, let’s go further, and think about the untapped potential of people in prison – particularly young people. The coaching programmes run by Spark Inside taps into that potential and empowers these young people to set goals and a plan to fulfil them, in order to turn their lives around and not return to 23-hour lock-up.
Coaching works - it is powerful and it is vital to have in our prisons, as part of rehabilitation. You can find out more about coaching in prisons, tell others about what they do, join their mailing list and/or follow them on social media.
And of course, you can donate. Every penny given to Spark Inside goes towards improving the lives of young people in and leaving prison. The young people in prison need compassion and support now more than ever, to enable them to transform their lives. https://www.sparkinside.org/donate
Kingsley Napley has a long history of support for social justice initiatives. We are supporters of the Social Mobility Fund and our BAME & Allies Network spearheads a number of projects, including a recent event to raise funds to support education about racism following the death of George Floyd.
If you find yourself affected by the issues touched on in this blog, our award-winning Criminal Defence team is always available to assist.
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