The following is something that I would have liked my younger self to read, that sunny morning three years ago in July 2013. I was sitting in my van staring at the prison gates; waiting for the first men to come out, wondering was this really such a good idea?
I know you are a little apprehensive, I am writing to reassure you that LandWorks does have a future and it is okay to dream.
The first group of 4 trainees? Well together you start to tame a wasteland called Quarry Field, breaking the ground for future development. You are still in contact with them all. They’re doing well, so proud of their time at LandWorks and now leading settled lives.
Over three years 4 men multiply to 30. You find that they are all so different; yet have so much in common but everyone carrying a complex bag of particular ‘issues’. You like them all, humans that is, not the bags!
On this journey you’ll meet some extraordinary people, some you have already met (while trying to get this going) and their belief in LandWorks is unwavering and fundamental. Others join along the way, helping shape and develop the project; you should let them know how valued they are.
LandWorks starts on a shoestring, money is hard won but the Lottery grant in 2015 allows the project to grow as planned. But you can’t get complacent; funding remains a constant concern.
You are going to discover a lot about ‘outcomes’ and trying to evidence that LandWorks works!
It does… After three years 92% of day release prisoners are in employment and overall the reoffending rate for all trainees is less than 4%. National statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice show that only 27% of people find a job on release and around 50% reoffend.
The small band of original supporters grows to a thousand. At first you thought people would find supporting prisoners a difficult proposition… it’s the opposite and folk want to be involved. This year the Supporters’ Day is on the 30th September 2016.
Be prepared, you’re going to visit some pretty dark places. You see a side of life that disturbs and impacts upon you. It changes your outlook and tolerance (not just cos you are getting older).
Just occasionally you see through the fog of the day-to-day running of the place and wonderful moments stand out. Today a man, who I doubt was employable 6 months ago, got a job. It doesn’t get better than seeing his face after the interview.
Not sure that you and Julie really thought you wanted a much bigger family, well, err, you are sort of going to get one!