Why We’re Different
Safe Ground works to reduce the risk of offending and reoffending based on a continually developing understanding of the origins and impact of crime and a commitment to empowering people to change, whether in prison or the community.
We recognise the critical role of relationships in the desistance process; relationships are pivotal to the development and consolidation of a positive identity defined by more than offending behaviour. Our programmes cannot change people, rather they are designed to create an environment conducive to self-reflection and awareness, while simultaneously equipping participants with the skills, confidence and motivation to make their own decisions.
Safe Ground in Prison
Our two flagship prison programmes - Family Man and Fathers Inside - have been delivered in almost 50 adult and young adult male establishments across England and Wales since 2003, with 4,600 graduates achieving over 11,000 nationally recognised qualifications. Over the past decade we have built a solid evidence base demonstrating the programmes’ impact on: family relationships, ETE progression, prisoner-officer relationships and adjudications, motivation and reoffending.
Family Man and Fathers Inside address the complex needs of male offenders in the following areas:
- Educational. We create a safe environment and the learning process is tightly structured. Both programmes are mapped to a number of NOCN awards, as well as Functional Skills English and Adult Literacy, requiring the student to complete a range of written, spoken and group activities in order to achieve accreditation. The programmes open a strategic path for disengaged and educationally disaffected prisoners by using drama, storytelling and confidence-building techniques to engage and motivate large groups of learners of mixed abilities.
- Employability and Personal Development. Family Man and Fathers Inside provide the vital first step towards improving students’ employability skills by encouraging teamwork, listening and responsibility. Since 2007, 93% of graduates have been engaged in further education, training and employment (ETE) one month after completing the programme, compared to 69% before the course.
- Maintaining Family Relationships. Evidence suggests that maintaining family ties within prison reduces an offenders’ chance of reoffending by 39%. Both programmes tackle the sensitive issues of families and parenting in a safe and constructive way to encourage family ties and contribute towards the rehabilitation agenda.
We have been guided foremost by what motivates prisoners. Our courses also flow from our interest in policy, and we have collaborated with teachers, prison staff and non governmental organisations (NGOs) to promote reforming ideas on how prisoners can be engaged. This means that our work fits into a co-ordinated effort to resettle prisoners by persuading them to address their offending behaviour.
It is not an exaggeration to say that we are leading a transformation in the way prisoners are introduced to family relations and parenting education.
Safe Ground in the Community
In 2009, Safe Ground piloted the Creating Community Archives project, in Durham. This aimed to create conversations between groups who might never otherwise communicate outside of conflict. It involved local older adults (over 65) working with young men in the Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution, using the issues of ‘separation’ as a vehicle for discussion. The project proved highly effective in “engaging young offenders and older adults with local museums and archives. It improved their access to culture and the arts and helped them to understand and empathise with the lives and stories of those who lived through the Second World War, or alternatively of those in prison.”
Evolving from the succes of Creating Community Archives, Common Ground was delivered between September 2010 and June 2011. This programme worked with 100 direct participants from three prison groups, two groups of older adults and a group of students in Year 10 at Battersea Park School. The groups never met but communicated with each other through specialist artists (percussionists and a story-teller) who helped share ideas, feelings, questions and responses between participants. The whole process was also made into a film, led by the school students with support from a professional film maker.
The evaluation revealed the project’s success in dispelling negative stereotypes and an especially pertinent finding was each group’s surprise at the other groups’ willingness to listen to them. Also noteworthy was the reaction of the young people to the advice they received from young offenders. Many noted that it was similar to their parents’ guidance but felt it had greater credibility coming from peers facing similar challenges. Following extremely positive feedback from both participants and the evaluation, Safe Ground is currently looking to secure funding to expand the programme and better assess its impact on communities.