A Bridgend-based scheme aimed at preventing current and released prisoners from re-offending has been awarded a grant of over £3 million. HMP and YOI Parc Prison runs the Invisible Walls project, which works with prisoners and their families during their sentence and subsequent release.
The money, from the Big Lottery Fund, will be spent over the next four years. It goes towards providing specialist parenting and relationship programmes, advice about debt, training and education, housing advice and support, physical health and fitness and job guidance.
30-year-old Gavin Williams, a former prisoner at Parc, had a history of drug taking and had spent 15 years in and out of custody. He entered the scheme after being jailed in July 2010, and was estranged from his family at the time. Gavin says he was given "a push in the right direction" by being encouraged to draw for his children as part of the programme.
They noticed that I had great skills in drawing and they helped me develop my skills by giving me the chance to see if I could do it and supported me all the way. If it wasn’t for the support I received, I would probably be back in prison.
The scheme helped get Gavin involved with the Prince’s Trust when he left the prison, which in turn enabled him to set himself up as a self-employed painter earlier this year.
I don’t think I’ve seen a success story that compares to Gavin’s. He took part in our programme and it had a huge effect on him, and during the course of that he not only managed to get drug free, he found that he was a very good painter. It started off with small pictures, but expanded into big murals that really brightened up whole areas of the prison – and that discovery gave him an opportunity to break free of his old life.