#Acivicommunity blog :: Leo McMulkin 'The Revolving Doors' (part 1)

Acivicommunity Blog :: ‘The Revolving Doors’ (Part 1)

Leo McMulkin, Acivico Chief Operating Officer

Back in the autumn of 2016 I received an invitation from the Institution of Directors to attend an event called ‘inside out’ to be held at Her Majesty’s Prison, Birmingham UK.

The event was an opportunity to learn more about the work of the resettlement team to support ex-offenders finding work on release from prison. I was intrigued. I have not, thankfully had the pleasure of Her Majesty’s accommodation. However, recalling my youth and some of the decisions I made back then, this was probably more by luck than judgement!

I grew up in Birmingham and the prison back then was commonly called after the inner city suburb it resided in ‘Winson Green’. It’s a typical Victorian build, with large iron gates and high redbrick walls much like the prison depicted in the seventy’s TV sitcom ‘Porridge’. I had passed the prison on so many occasions and this opportunity to see the ‘inside out’ whetted my appetite as did the free lunch. 

We were told not to bring mobile phones or any other devices, which was unnerving in itself, but once through the multiple security checks and doors a group of us were escorted by the prison officers through the prison yard, up a fire exit staircase and into the prison chapel.

On arrival in the chapel we were greeted by some selected inmates (those behaving themselves I guessed) together with other employers from the public and private sectors. A quality buffet which had been prepared and was served by the residents was available and there was genuine warmth of appreciation from the inmates that we had taken some time out of our schedules to visit them.

Then we were asked to take our seats and another group of inmates appeared through some unlocked doors accompanied by two musicians; a lady with a guitar and a conductor from the #Choirsbeatingtime team. Together they made their way up to the altar.

This was the prison choir which proceeded to sing several songs for us which I have to say was very moving and they encouraged our participation in a number of chorus’. So here I sat in a chapel, in Winson Green, singing with the inmates, not one of my normal days at Acivico.

We then heard from a number of inmates who explained their stories and the education and training they were getting inside along with their hopes for employment on release. After this came the statistics from the prisons resettlement team, without boring you with all the numbers, let’s just say a large majority of those released do not find work, in fact, they re-offend and end up back inside hence the 'The Revolving Doors’ cycle. This puts an immense pressure on the public purse through policing, the courts and judicial system and then subsequent rehousing of the re-offenders and the cycle goes on. This is a huge national issue and is having a direct impact on overcrowding in prisons in the UK, diverting much need public funds and let’s be honest it is increasing crime in our communities as well.

So how could we break the cycle of The Revolving Doors?

Next up, we listened to case studies from organisation who had taken a lead in working with the prison and probation services to find ex-offenders work on release. Two of the organisations cited were high street brands Greggs and Timpson’s. “So they trust ex-offenders with the cash register and cutting our spare house keys I hear you say”. Well the answer is yes, and they have benefited from loyal, dedicated hard working employers from an untapped recruitment pool. OK, so not every job role is suitable for certain ex-offenders, but here was evidence that the cycle could be broken to bring social good and it benefits the employer as well. A ‘win win’, I became more interested.

Afterwards I had the opportunity to talk with some of the prisoners first hand, they were just guys looking for a chance and I guess we shouldn’t judge people for the choices they made, when we don’t know the options they had to choose from, and as I said at the start ’there but for the grace of God go I’.

After connecting with representatives from the Institute of Directors, Skill and Employment West Midlands, Choirs Beating Time and the HMP Birmingham’s Resettlement Team, I bid my farewells and was once again escorted by the guards back through the yard and through the doors back to the security entrance. I was convinced that Acivico as an organisation could do real social good here and benefit from a pool of talent, specifically around Acivico’s ‘Soft Facilities Management services in Catering and Cleaning, as a starter in any case.

When back in the office I ran the idea past Acivico’s Human Resources Manager explaining my thinking and we agreed. So I invited the Winson Green resettlement team in, together with Employment and Skills representatives. We learned more about the tailored training and courses that can be done on the inside to match our needs. They also manage the selection process before release and filter applicants to agreed criteria and requirements. It’s a government supported initiative so it’s at zero cost to Acivico which benefits from savings we would otherwise have expended on recruitment. With the access the scheme gives to pre-trained employees (to our requirements), plus the social good benefits, it’s a no brainer.

Acivico is in its infancy with regard to this initiative and we are working with the above mentioned agencies to take it forward as an organisation committed to social good. We are yet to establish its success within Acivico, the proof however, will be in the pudding and not the porridge!

Leo McMulkin. 

Follow:: @Leo_acivico @AcivicoLtd

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