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Improving the Prison Environment: HMP Brixton and the RAS

Oct 16 2018
By: Gail Stephens
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When prison spaces are designed to foster personal change and hope, they are more likely to reduce re-offending and prison violence.

Over the last 2 years we have been exploring new ways to use our painting and decorating expertise to enhance spaces within the prisons. Our project ““Improving the Prison Environment” was initially piloted in HMP High Down has been recently repeated in HMP Brixton to brighten up the visitors area.

The projects are co-created with the prisoners and an artist together developing themes and informative illustrations that the prisoners would value.

In Brixton the creative for the main Visitor’s Area took inspiration from our association with the Royal Astronomical Society with whom we are running astronomy and STEM education alongside our core curriculum. Our programme “See beyond the Prison Wall” brings the study of astronomy and the wider universe to prisoners to help them to explore their place in the universe, see beyond their current circumstances and start to think outside the prison walls.

With the guidance and direction of Fellows including two acclaimed astronomers : Andreu Font-Ribera (Lecturer in Cosmology at UCL and Ernest Rutherford Fellow) and Tom Kitching (Reader in Astrophysics at UCLs Mullard Space Science Lab and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society) Federica created an amazing “Astronomical Wall” featuring Galaxies and Skies.

The dark blue Galaxy wall transitions to a light blue engaging, interactive solar system in the children’s area where children can move the elements  around and learn about the sky.  Additionally portraits and quotes from famous astronauts are incorporated into the murals with information imparting key facts on the galaxy – everyone unique and different.


At the start of the visitor journey a “Magic forest” has been created featuring hidden animals, fairy doors and even the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland  with the aim of  providing an engaging distraction to reduce the impact on children of the experience of visiting prison and going through the security scanners.


In a holding area the “Information Wall” details the activities open to inmates giving families an insight into what sort of courses, help and training is available in the prison.   A favourite image of ours is that of “Story book dads” depicting a story recorded into a microphone linking to a child in bed…


On exit “Goodbye” is scripted in a variety of languages. The visitors journey is completed, having hopefully been enhanced by this long lasting legacy.

Our thanks to artist Federica Ciotti, pictured here holding Jupiter from the Interactive Solar Wall.


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Tapping into the Talent of people with convictions

Sep 27 2018
By: Gail Stephens
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As a member of The Corbett Network it was an honour for Dabs and Fran to be invited to speak at their  inaugural landmark event  “Tap into New Talent”  – a conference spearheaded by The Corbett Network, Nacro and Dominic Headley Associates (DHA) employer, underlining the importance and value to employers of hiring people with convictions within their workforce.

Employers from a diverse range of sectors throughout the UK attended to hear first hand the real benefits and the positive effect it has on their companies.

The audience also comprised of key policy makers from various government departments including Ian Bickers, lead of theMoJ’s Education and Employment Strategy who introduced the audience to the New Futures Network, which aims to increase the number of employers working in partnership with prisons and ensure that the education and training delivered in custody will improve job opportunities upon release.

The conference, hosted by Eversheds Sutherland, featured an expert panel of senior executives representing organisations that employ people with convictions, including: Alasdair Jackson, CSR and Sustainability Director, Recycling Lives, Kathryn Nethersole, Property Project Manager, Tideway, Geoff Webb, Operations Lead, Millmoll Ltd and Kelly Carrell, Co-Founder, Census Group. These employers outlined their positive experiences of the hardworking and loyal staff they regularly take on that consistently add real value and productivity to their workforce.

In addition to ourselves other Corbett Network members that deliver training and support programmes for people with convictions included David Apparicio, CEO, The Chrysalis Foundation and Jane Gould, CEO, Clean Sheet who all brought in people they have supported to speak openly about their moving stories and help to re join society.

Dominic Headley, Director, DHA  also gave an interactive legal briefing on how to recruit safely and fairly.  Dominic said: “My legal briefing included a call to the government for a complete overhaul of the criminal record disclosure regime and for Ban the Box to become law. We have a societal and economic need to remove all unnecessary barriers that prevent people with convictions moving forward with their lives.”

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Out for Good – now in its 2nd phase..

May 16 2018
By: Gail Stephens
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“The support they gave me in writing a CV and disclosure letter made me feel more like I was going somewhere. I’m trying to change my life around and that means you’ve got to be on it and take things step by step. That’s why it was so good to have friendly and enthusiastic people around you.” Out for Good participant

Following our successful pilot the second phase of our innovative, case management focused project that supports ex-offenders into employment is underway in HMP Brixton. Funded by Sheriffs and Recorders and set up in memory of the late Treasurer of the Prison Reform Trust, Andrew Fleming-Williams, Out for Good brings together prisoners and employers within the prison environment, helping to prepare prisoners for jobs upon release.

The project targets prisoners who are six months prior to release and are motivated and able to find work. With tailored case management support from Bounce Back, and mentoring support from The Reasons Why Foundation, the men are able to realise their own potential and work towards achieving sustainable employment in an industry of their choice. By forming close and professional relationships with Case Managers, prisoners are guided to help them pursue work that they are most suited to and are most likely to succeed in.

“I really like that they give us lots of different options and that the project allowed us to think outside the box, rather than forcing me into something you don’t want to do.” Out for Good participant

The unparalleled input from the employers who have not only come into the prison a number of times to meet prospective employees but have also offered a number of jobs and interviews to a number of participants make the project unique.  This project is effective in that it provides real opportunities for ex-offenders and guides them through the process of recruitment. Working so closely with employers is vital, as businesses are able to visit the prison and see how many dedicated, experienced and enthusiastic individuals can be found there. This is often a profound experience for employers and encourages them to think more seriously about expanding and improving their recruitment processes to ensure that ex-offenders have a fair chance.

“Employers get to build a relationship with the guys during their visits to the prison so on release they already know them on a personal level as well as professional. This eases participants’ apprehension when attending interviews as they already have that rapport.” Maisie- Bounce Back Case Manager

Initially, businesses come to the prison to talk about the work they have on offer and the vacancies available. When prisoners then register their interest in a given organisation, a one-to-one chat is arranged between the employer and prospective employee. Case managers are involved throughout to ensure all parties are on the same page and recognise what they stand to gain from the project. If employers get on well with a given participant, they often invite them for an interview or even straight to on-boarding upon release. This means that prisoners can have a job lined up and be completely work ready before they are released from the prison. Release from prison is daunting but when an individual can feel safe in knowledge that they have work lined up, this process is likely to be much easier.

“As a Case Manager, seeing the guys reaction when employers offer them further interviews and secure employment on release is what makes it worthwhile. They put their trust in me which gives me the motivation to do the best I can for them!”

Recently, a participant who secured work during the pilot scheme attended a session in HMP Brixton. Brian met with a potential employer whilst serving time in Brixton and was subsequently offered a job upon release. Upon returning to Brixton, he spoke to the current participants about why Out for Good is so effective at helping people find real and sustainable jobs, and why the support offered by Bounce Back is so invaluable in easing any issues that are encountered.

“Brian is living proof that Out for Good does actually work. It proves that there are real jobs at the end of it and what Bounce Back does is working.” Current participant- HMP Brixton

Many participants are already reaping the benefits of the Out for Good model. Out of the participants who have already been released, several are already in work and a number have jobs in the pipeline, with on-boarding and induction sessions being arranged. For those still in prison meetings with employers are on-going.

“My number one priority was to find a job and it makes such a huge difference to have that security before being released. Out for Good is a really good project for anyone who is ready for a second chance.” Out for Good participant

While there a number of projects that run in prisons with employability in mind, Out for Good is unique in that it brings together employers and prisoners before prisoners are released. In forming these relationships early on, all parties are able to work together to ensure that the process is kept as simple as possible and ex-offenders are supported into the work environment in the best possible way. Not only does this increase the chances of successful employment, but it helps to challenge many common misconceptions about the process of employing an ex-offender, highlighting how with the right support, ex-offenders can be welcomed into the workforce for the benefit of everyone.


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Beyond Prison Walls – Launching our new project with the Royal Astronomical Society

Jan 11 2018
By: Gail Stephens
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‘Don’t let people tell you this stuff is too sophisticated for prisoners. They always think things are too sophisticated for us. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing painting and decorating, but sometimes I want to be mentally challenged. Astronomy isn’t something I’ve ever thought about learning before but this is the stuff we should be learning about!, I’m definitely keen to be involved.’ Prisoner, HMP Brixton

To celebrate their bicentenary the Royal Astronomical Society established an Outreach and Engagement Fund to support astronomy and geophysics projects for diverse sections of the community. In May 2017 Bounce Back were announced a winner and we are now developing a project which aims to engage prisoners in astronomy and other STEM subjects. This gives us the opportunity to stimulate new ideas and approaches to prison education and demonstrates the diverse range of training and education initiatives that are on offer in prison to employers.  It also shows how such opportunities offer individuals the chance to learn a variety of transferable and valuable skills.

Although a slight departure from our everyday work in training prisoners in construction, it is an exciting and thought-provoking time for the us. The aim of the project is to stimulate interest in astronomy, whilst helping prisoners “See beyond the prison walls” and their current circumstances. Facilitating an environment that encourages prisoners to think about their place in the universe will help them re-evaluate their priorities and alter their mindset. Aspects of mindfulness will underpin the project activities, and participants will learn to think differently about life.

Since May 2017 the project has been in a research and development phase as we reach out to other organisations and explore potential partnerships that will maximize the reach of the project with new audiences. We have also been working closely with a number of fellows from the Royal Astronomical Society who are excited to offer their expertise to teach prisoners about the solar system.

It’s brilliant that Bounce Back recently got an RAS 200 award! The ideas are great and I can’t wait to be involved.’ RAS Fellow

The project was introduced to HMP Brixton, (chosen site for the pilot phase) at the end of last year. The responses from prisoners has been overwhelmingly positive and somewhat unexpectedly – many have prior knowledge of astronomy from documentaries featuring Professor Brian Cox and Tim Peake.

Beyond Prison Walls is an innovative project that will offer us the opportunity to break boundaries in prison education. With the hope of using Virtual Reality headsets to allow prisoners to explore the universe, the project will provide prisoners with new and exciting opportunities that will advance their astronomical knowledge and could also inspire curiosity and stimulate new interest in learning.

Watch this space for developments!

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2017 Awards

Nov 29 2017
By: Gail Stephens
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With a hint of Halloween our Annual Awards ceremony was held at the end of last month at Centrepoint’s Dean Street Cafe. Hosted by Tom Watt, guest enjoyed a humorous evening with delicious food presented by the trainees at the cafe.

This year the awards were donated and presented by our Employers and Partners who personally acknowledged the achievements of 14 individuals who had excelled with them. But the event was not just an intimate celebration for the award winners. It was also an opportunity to thank and celebrate our very valued employers and supporters – the very people that provide the essential ingredient for changing perception, spreading the word and helping others to see the talent pool that exists so that we can all help to reduce re-offending and change lives together.
Please take a look at the highlights of the evening in our video:
And well done to the worthy winners of the awards bellow:
Rash, who won the “Most Entrepreneurial Spirit” presented by Michael Smith of Brixton Bid.
Vincent received the “Outstanding Achievement Award” from Landsec
Dabs received the “Proud Father Award” having just become one from Jacquie of Boots
Kieron won the Out for Good Award for his determination to change his life
Rachel, one of our Crisis participants, won a special award.
Kieron was acknowledged for “Turning over a new leaf” with an Award from HMP Brixton and National Prison Radio
Keltbray presented Nathan with their award for “Breaking Down Barriers”
Scaffolders Alandale acknowledged Jermaine for “Working his way to the top”
J M Scully recognised Wojciech for his work on Boots sites
Gympsumtools presented Jerome with an award for his skills improvement
TFL awarded Jermaine the “Out for Good” award for his success with our new pilot programme supporting offenders into a wider variety of industries.
There were two recipients for the Novus award for “Sustained Employment” – Ali and Dawit and 3 recent starters: Perrie, Dennis and Steve were awarded “Best newcomers award” sponsored by Lucas
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Oct 02 2017
By: Gail Stephens
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Transforming the Environment: HMP High Down

Our funded pilot project, which was part of the Ministry of Justice’s Reform Prison programme, “Improving the prison environment”  in HMP High Down was completed in September 2017.

The project involved a number of inmates in the painting and decorating of various rooms including the homework room and listening room. The participants themselves were the designers of the redecoration in every respect and the process consisted of three intensive group planning sessions as well as personal in cell work. Participants chose the colours and concepts, putting forward ideas for special features such as the blackboard pillar in the Homework Club Room.  This involvement created a sense of shared ownership and accountability to the prison community as a whole.

The results were highly effective and all of the rooms were further enhanced by the talented artist, Federica Ciotti whose amazing murals brought each room to life.

In addition to improving the atmosphere of the “Listening Room” – a private space where prisoners can “off load” to a trained fellow inmate “Listener”, the Homework Club Room was also completely transformed.

The purpose of the Homework Club redesign was to create a welcoming environment which would reduce the trauma of coming into a prison environment for visiting children and increase the quality of time spent with their father. The goal was to create an environment which was visually stimulating and interactive: an “oasis” in the prison complex which would meet the needs of all users. Featuring an exquisitely drawn “Evolution Wall” and an amazing “Interactive map of the world” the result was quite overwhelming.

The feedback from all the families is so positive. They are really grateful for the opportunity to spend quality time with their children in such a friendly environment” –  Prison staff working with Families and visitors

Federica and her “Evolution Wall”


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The “Fill the Gap” initiative

Sep 01 2017
By: Gail Stephens
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We are delighted to be in partnership with a number of organisations working on employer led training and pathways into construction for ex-offenders in a unique project entitled “Mind/Fill the Gap”. Specifically responding to the needs of employees in the construction industry the objective is to reduce the skills gaps of trained workers within the industry giving employees access to the talent pool that people leaving prison/the 11 million people with a criminal record represent.

Led by Lendlease Be Onsite and part funded by CITB, the programme delivers training and support into jobs via the collaboration of a consortium of a range of organisations who all work within the employment support sector and have a desire to focus on work with ex-offenders. We ourselves provide skills training both in and out of prison whilst the others in partnership including PJ Careys, Lee Marley Brickwork and Scaffolding, Mitie Foundation, NACRO and a Fairer Chance all give their specialist support towards the ultimate objective of sustainable employment.

The programme which began on 1st May 2017 focusses on London and the South in year 1 with other areas of the UK including Manchester, North West, Birmingham and West Midlands in years two and three.

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Our Out for Good Programme continues

Aug 15 2017
By: Gail Stephens
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Following the success of our first Out for Good project in HMP Brixton, funded by Sheriffs and Recorders, we are about to embark upon our second programme.  Having worked on the outcomes with the partner employers involved we are able to evaluate the learnings from the first project to adapt and develop the next one starting in October.

These 6 month programmes, run by Bounce Back and Prospects/NCS, give a variety of employers a chance to be involved with the recruitment of prisoners with the support of the dedicated Out for Good Team.  Working with both participants and employers throughout the period and for up to a year beyond, an Out for Good team manager ensures the process through preparation and into work is managed throughout.

To become involved prospective employers for the programme are invited into the prison to run a workshop and explain their company ethos, highlight positions available and give a realistic view of their expectations to the programme participants. The participants are individuals who are motivated to work and are between 4 and 6 months prior to release. Both sides are then supported with candidates being prepared for the job opportunities whilst allocated “champions” within the company liaise with the team.  As they near the end of their sentence the programme participants interview for the roles with the employers and many are offered full time employment.

Employers that engaged with the first programme included Tideway, Young’s Pubs, Keltbray, Alandale and Tfl and a total of 20 job offers were accepted.

 If you would like to find out more about our criteria and how to be involved with our Out for Good programme please contact us.  

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Our feature on the BBC

Dec 12 2016
By: Gail Stephens
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We were so pleased that Raphael Rowe was so inspired by our work that following his visit to open the scaffolding centre that he campaigned to run a feature on our training and employment on the BBC The One Show in early December.

The comprehensive piece started in HMP Brixton interviewing our trainer and a trainee before visiting one of our recently qualified and released cohorts now out working full time on site with Alandale.

It really told our story well and we hope raised awareness hugely of the importance of giving ex-offenders a chance.

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Our Scaffolding Centre officially opens in HMP Brixton

Oct 18 2016
By: Gail Stephens
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At an event attended by in excess of 100 people held at the Clink Restaurant our scaffolding centre was officially opened by Paul Elliott,  eminent football governing body ambassador and passionate supporter of youth engagement, and hosted by TV presenter and journalist Raphael Rowe.screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-37-14

The launch of our latest skills training centre is a very special for two reasons. It is the first ever in a UK prison and secondly it is a clear example of a response from the construction industry to an immediate need for scaffolding recruits.  Alandale, through its relationship with Land Securities came into the prison and set up the training facility for us so we could train up potential employees.

Debbie Akehurst Head of Economy and Communities at Land Securities said ‘ this is a great example of true partnership working – the new Scaffold Centre will meet industry skills gaps and tap into the potential of people in prisons, it’s a win win situation for everyone’ – people get a second chance, the industry gets skilled workers and our communities become safer by reducing reoffending rates’

What has also been hugely rewarding is the immediate response we have had from scaffolding companies around the UK who are keen to tap into the unique pool of trainees for a section of the industry that is crying out for workers.

‘We have been delighted by the opportunity that this gives our participants to get into employment on release’ says Fran Findlater CEO of Bounce Back.  ‘As we focus on training skills that respond to the need of the construction industry, in this case we have more than fulfilled our objectives – we could easily place 20 or more scaffolders into work and we’ve only been open a couple of months.  This is all about getting our participants ready for work on site.  It is not about high levels of extensive training, it is to see if individuals have the appetite to go up a scaffolding tower and get involved in the hard work the profession requires.  If participants do this, dry lining and painting and decorating in our 3 centres, we know they will have an aptitude on release.  Ultimately this has one end goal – stopping people coming back to prison because they have the skills, confidence and earning potential to manage on the outside.’

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah said:

“Bounceback is an excellent example of how employers can provide invaluable work opportunities for offenders while in prison to help them turn their lives around.

“Schemes like these can help to break the cycle of re-offending, which means fewer victims and saves the taxpayer money.”

In addition we continue to ensure that the trainees have also gained their CSCS cards whilst still in the prison environment so they are ready to work as soon as they are released – something that is fundamental to preventing people re-offending when they leave prison.

The employers and companies we work with have been resolute in their support, as have NOMS, NOVUS and the prison.  The industry values the fact that not only does the organisation provide training, but they work with the individuals ‘through the gate’ as well as with employers on an ongoing basis to ensure both sides are working well together.  As Keltbray said when they started working in the sector ‘we genuinely couldn’t have done it without them’.  Equally, we couldn’t do it without the support of the construction companies, it is an ideal model to take forward.


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  • “Bounce Back is, above all, about its people. What is known is that a job and income on release is fundamental to success in coping with day to day life and preventing re-offending. Our drive to change perception in employers and clients is reaping rewards and our professional team is working around London and the Home Counties.

    The mutual trust and respect at the core of our values reflects the growing belief in giving social enterprises and socially disadvantaged people an opportunity to succeed and thrive. We are just one stage in this development, the determination of our participants to start a new life and move on is a formidable ingredient in the recipe for success."

    Francesca Findlater, Founder/Chairman

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