I keep meaning to tell you; I bumped into James the other evening. It’s more or less a year since his release from prison and nearly two years since he first started at LandWorks.

He was really well, tired after a long day at work. I think it has taken him a bit of time to get used to life after prison. We see each other quite regularly, and every time I see a man steadily growing in confidence. He’s popular and has a good set of new friends.

James told me that he rarely thinks about prison now, it was so ‘f@#king awful’ he never wants to go through that hell again.

I got to thinking does that mean…prison works?

Years ago I learnt from the men at LandWorks that prison often takes you out of (or even rescues you from) a desperate lifestyle and that in itself can initiate the desire to change.

The problem is that prison isn’t really set up to support that desire to change. It is however very good at warehousing men. Almost stopping time itself and you are transported x years hence…no change.

James was convicted of a violent crime. His assessments and his records show him to be this person. It’s clear, it’s black and white; that’s who the system processed him as.

Ministry of Justice statistics suggest that such an anti-authority prisoner as A657223 would probably re-offend.

James hasn’t.

I strongly believe that it’s not the headline crime or the conviction that should inform rehabilitation. You have to understand the complex life around crime.

Good Probation Managers have been doing this for years, building relationships, supporting and encouraging people to change.

I say ‘have been’, it’s a bit tricky now. Caseloads for managers have recently trebled or more. I would be interested if you can see how that’s going to work?

James is today the man we caught a glimpse of two years ago.

One last thing (you’ll like this), he wants me to help him tomorrow evening to set up a direct debit to pay his TV licence fee!