Friday, July 13, 2007

"In the News" by Karen Franklin, Ph.D.: New book on offender rehabilitation

Hi Karen,

I was interested to see your promotion of the new book by Shadd Maruna and Tony Ward dealing with the rehabilitation of offenders. It is indeed the human and social needs that must be targetted and addressed. Punishement by itself merely re-affirms past failings. You might like to look at our web site and our linked blog. There you will see our experience for such work here in the UK. Good luck with your efforts.

Kind regards,

Trevor Philpott

Sunday, July 08, 2007



I have just returned from a 4 day trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland with my girlfriend. We arrived about 11pm and although it was drizzling and cloudy I could not believe how light it still was. We pitched our tent and quickly fell asleep. When we awoke in the morning the view from our tent was one of the most beautiful I have ever been lucky enough to experience. The loch that stretched out to the sea was glistening like a mirror in the morning sunshine with the sound of seagulls calling. The wild, rocky mountains shot up towards the sky, their jagged summits just hidden from view by the few remaining clouds that scattered the otherwise blue sky, slowly being carried away by the stiff sea breeze. Skye is truly a magical place and I felt privileged to be their.

That view from our tent in Skye was a far cry from my life 5 years ago. I was due to
be released from prison after serving a sentence for numerous burglaries committed to fund a serious drug addiction. I had no home to return to, my family ties had all but broken down. I had very few personal possessions and even less of an idea about where my chaotic lifestyle would be heading next.

Fortunately, during my time in prison a friend had told me of a charity called C-FAR. He said that after a tough residential training course they helped ex-offenders to find accommodation and a job so you could start a new life. This sounded like it would be worth a try so I applied for the course and was accepted. However, I found a lot more than a job and accommodation during my time at the Centre.

The staff were friendly and trusting, always went the extra mile to help and never wrote anyone off. I still have the rock climbing magazines that a member of staff brought in and gave to me and from time to time I still pore over the same inspiring photos. It was these images that triggered my passion for climbing and reminded me of the power of wild, mountainous environments that I had experienced as a child during school trips.

During the course we undertook all sorts of lessons including basic skills and group sessions dealing with our offending, anger management and drug addictions. I also remember we spent 3 long, sunny days clearing and tidying a local village park that had become overgrown. It was hard work but we all had a great time, working together and enjoying the banter. It was nice to be able to give something back to a community; the end result was fantastic and it felt extremely satisfying.

Towards the end of the course a member of staff asked me “if I could do anything when I left C-FAR what would it be”. So I told them and received all the help and support that I needed to make it happen. I went to Bicton College in Devon to study outdoor education, something I thought would never happen. Fortunately, I ended up getting good enough marks to move on to a degree course in the Lake District run through the University of Lancaster.

Looking back to that time I recall that on leaving C-FAR and prior to my starting at college, things did not go completely smoothly. As I now know, life rarely does. However the things I had learnt during the programme, the support I received afterwards and the determination of people not to give up on me saw me though those bad times. As a result I learned more about myself, others and the world in general and have been able to apply that to my life today. For that I will always be grateful.

I currently work as an assistant manager in an outdoor activities clothing and equipment shop. I spend most of my free time rock climbing and running on the fells, enjoying the beautiful environment I now live in. I have travelled to many other places in the UK and Europe and intend to visit many others. This plays a large part in how I now choose to live my life and I enjoy every minute of it.

One thing I am certain of, things would not be the same if it had not been for C-FAR, and I know that there are many others that would say the same. C-FAR gave me a chance to break the vicious circle that my life, and others like me, became embroiled in. It gave me the chance to recognise my strengths and increase my confidence and sense of personal belief. Without this, I suspect that I would now be back in prison or worse still, possibly dead. As I experienced the breathtaking view outside our tent on Skye, I reflected how fortunate I was.

If the government is really serious about its efforts to reduce re-offending and substance misuse, then programmes such as that delivered by C-FAR should be supported across the country. Unfortunately, because of a lack of funding, in April 2005 C-FAR was placed into voluntary liquidation. Had the prison population been over 80,000 in 2005 I suspect that there would have been different outcome.

The Prime Minister has said that he intends to employ people “who can contribute their energies in a new spirit of public service”. Again, if he is serious about this, I hope that he will contact Trevor Philpott and his colleagues who ran C-FAR and are still working hard to help reduce re-offending. They have the spirit and the knowledge.

Good luck to all ex-offenders. Life can be good if you want it enough.

Chris Stirling