Towards of 2019, staff, trainers and prison partners came together to review Leap’s work after four years of delivery. Below is a case study from HMP Wandsworth
The pressures faced by prison Governors and staff across England and Wales are at an all-time high. Leap has been working with HMP Wandsworth staff and prisoners since 2018. Together, we have developed a peer-led approach to reducing violence and improving prisoner/staff relationships. Working closely with the Violence Reduction team, Leap has trained up selected prisoners to be Violence Reduction Representatives (VR Reps).
The programme has grown year on year. In the first recruitment stage, we received over 100 applications from men interested in becoming VR Reps. It is an intensive 5-day programme to gain coaching skills so that participants can work with their peers to de-escalate potentially violent situations in the prison. The VR Reps have taken their role seriously, supporting the Violence Reduction staff team in their strategy to create a safer prison environment.
“THROUGH LEAP’S TRAINING, WE HAVE ALSO SEEN THE REPS BOND AND BECOME A COMMUNITY. THEY HAVE CREATED TRUST WITHIN THEIR TEAM AND HAVE ROLE MODELLED THIS IN THEIR COACHING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR PEERS IN THE PRISON. MEN EXPERIENCING CONFLICT AT HMP WANDSWORTH WILL NOW OFTEN ASK TO SEE A REP TO TALK IT THROUGH BEFORE ACTING ON THEIR IMPULSES. THIS HAS PREVENTED MANY POTENTIALLY VIOLENT ISSUES FROM OCCURRING. VIOLENCE REDUCTION PRISON OFFICER.”
Prisoners who choose to take part in the programme gain valuable life skills which benefit them beyond their roles as VR Reps. They build their own self-awareness, practice alternative techniques in inter-personal conflict, as well as learning communication skills to manage challenging interactions. Many recognised that their experience as a VR Rep has helped them to identify new options for themselves after prison, for example going into youth mentoring.
Over the course of our partnership, we have co-produced a programme which has seen prisoners take responsibility for themselves and their peers, effectively reducing conflict in the prison. Towards the end of 2019, we also supported the VR Reps and Prison Officers to create a new programme exploring the risks of gang involvement, which they are now delivering to their peers in the prison.
As we continue our partnership with staff and prisoners at HMP Wandsworth, we hope to continue building upon the impact of this innovative Violence Reduction Representatives Programme.
“[LEAP’S COURSE HAS HELPED ME WITH] UNDERSTANDING CONFLICT AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION; IT’S A LIFE SKILL THAT CAN BE USED OUTSIDE, IN ANY SITUATION. [I’VE ALSO] SEEN CHANGES IN THE MEN THAT I TALK TO. THEY SEE VR REPS AS AN EXAMPLE AND THE ‘YOUNG ONES’ SEE US AS AN OLDER CHARACTER THEY CAN RELATE TO… SOMEONE WHO HAS CHANGED, SOMEONE THEY CAN TALK TO AND A MEDIATION POINT. [I WANT TO BE] SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR THEM, HOW TO MANAGE PRISON LIFE AND LIFE ON THE OUTSIDE. VIOLENCE REDUCTION REPRESENTATIVE.”