The prison project helping female inmates at HMP Styal reset their lives

Inmates at HMP Styal are taking part in a project that encourages women into paid work and training. ITV Granada Reports' Anna Youssef went along to meet one former prisoner who is helping to run the scheme.

Yvonne Grime is the first former inmate in Styal Prison’s history to return as an employee.

She is proof that, given the right tools and support, rehabilitation is possible.

Yvonne, who is a grandmother, spent years in and out of prison for drug related offences. She now manages the prison workshop which employs offenders to recycle electrical waste.

The workshop is part of a scheme run by a company called Recycling Lives, which has track record of rehabilitating prisoners.

Ex offender Yvonne Grime is now the manager of the Recycling Lives workshop at HMP Styal Credit: ITV Granada

Yvonne said: "My criminal life went on for 30+ years. There wasn't a year that went by when I wasn't involved with the courts or the police. It just started from a very young age and it was hard to come out of although I wanted it to change for a lot of years, I didn't know how to." 

Prisoners are paid for their work and receive training. On their release they are helped to find skilled employment and stable housing. Yvonne says the charity helped turn her life around and break the cycle of reoffending. Now she wants to help others.

Yvonne said: "I get a lot of respect off the women because they do know I'm an ex-offender. I can relate to a lot of things these women go through. I think if you can trust just one person when you're in a situation like this, in prison, then you can get somewhere."

Recycling Lives combines charity and business, using its commercial waste management and recycling operation to run "HMP Academies" in 6 prisons across the UK.It claims to be the most effective offender rehabilitation programme of its kind in the country. Currently 55% of inmates who serve less than 12 months in custody will reoffend within a year of release but the re-offending rate for those employed by Recycling Lives is less than 5%.

It also says around 70% of prisoners it helps move straight into work after release, often within the company's sites in Leyland and Birkenhead, compared to a national average of less than 20%.

Prisoners receive training and are paid for their work Credit: ITV Granada

Naomi had been in prison eight times for drugs and violence by the time she was 30. She was released from Styal two years ago. Naomi says the scheme helped her stay out of prison and on the right track.

"I was given my own home and basically the headspace to think and breath and decide what I wanted to do without always having to live in survival mode and act on my instincts and decide in an instance what I was going to do."

Naomi’s now a manager at the charity FareShare. She is also playing an active part in her children's lives.

Naomi says the support she got from Recycling Lives has helped her stay out of prison and on the right track Credit: ITV Granada

Naomi said: "Like I’m not a different person to what I was. I was never a bad person to start with. That’s what's just presumed of criminals. It’s just that sometimes- things are necessities and everybody is born to a different place and some people are born to better places than others and some people have to fight and do those things to survive and some people don’t and that’s just the world really. 

Alasdair Jackson, Recycling Lives CEO, said: "The work is a means to an end. Our aim is to change lives. Our job is to learn what the women’s aspirations are and what they need when they get out. We have a whole team of key workers who look at accommodation needs, employment needs, pastoral needs and specialist help. Anything the ladies want that will enable them to have the best chance of succeeding on the outside."

The success of the Recycling Lives scheme has been recognised by the Government who are keen for more businesses to employ ex-offenders to help plug the skills gap and cut crime.

Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, the Secretary of State for Prisons, Parole and Probation said: "Experts put the annual cost of reoffending at eighty billion pounds. It's a mind boggling figure.

"Of course most crime is repeat crime, most offending is reoffending and that's why it's so important that when people are in prison we work with them on rehabilitation alongside that punitive element but also when they come out- that pivotal moment- we make sure the help and support is there giving them the best chance to succeed and get back on the straight and narrow."