Exeter City players and coaching staff have taken part in an innovative prison project which aims to use the inspiration of professional football clubs to break the cycle of reoffending.
The ‘Through the Gate’ offender intervention programme is being delivered by staff from Exeter CITY Community Trust at HMP Exeter, who have been trained to deliver the pilot programme and have been working with inmates for the last seven weeks.
Jamie Vittles, head of community for Exeter CITY Community Trust, said: ‘Our work in the community is extremely diverse and it is incredibly rewarding to know we are making an impact on our city and our community.
‘This pilot programme has focussed on four key outcomes; improving life skills, health and wellbeing, education and employment opportunities and understanding of crime and risk-related behaviours. Crucially the offenders are mentored by staff from the community trusts once they leave prison, or go ‘through the gate’.
He added: ‘So far the project has been very well received. We hope to secure funding to go on to deliver further programmes in both HMP Exeter and Channings Wood.’
Exeter City FC player Troy Brown and goalkeeping coach Chris Weale attended a session at the prison this week, where they took part in a Q&A session with the offenders and played a five-a-side game.
Chris said: ‘It was a fantastic session, we’re both really pleased and proud to be involved with initiatives like this. The group were incredibly responsive, asking us questions about our careers, and seemed genuinely engaged in the programme.’
The project has been funded by the EFL Trust Innovation Fund and is being delivered in conjunction with Plymouth Argyle’s Community Trust.
The eight-week programme has consisted of the following:
• Classroom-based learning, education, employability, sports leadership and proprietary mentoring
• Physical activity
• Mindfulness sessions
Staff from the Community Trusts have collaborated with staff from the gym and education departments, to learn each other’s systems, ways of operating and procedures. Training of the delivery staff has been led by the Alliance of Sport, using a ‘trauma-informed approach’ to mentoring participants in custody and through the gate into the community.
The delivery staff have all achieved a Level 3 in Trauma Informed, 1st4Sport Workforce Mentoring Award. The eventual plan is for participants on the prison courses to work towards a smooth transition to life on the outside at the end of their sentences, helped by prison resettlement services as well as the community trust mentors, who will continue to mentor and support them, just as they did in prison.
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