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Celebrating 5 Years of Impact: 3Pillars Project's Journey in Prison Reform for Young Men

As 3Pillars Project commemorates five years of dedicated work in tackling complex issues within prison reform for young men, it is a time to reflect on the incredible achievements and lasting impact this charity has had. 3Pillars Project was founded on the belief that young men in the criminal justice system have the potential to transform their lives, given the right support and guidance. By focusing on exercise, education, and ethos, 3Pillars has empowered over 300 young men to transform their lives.

Using Rugby and Mentoring to Channel Controlled Aggression: Let Them Play

At the heart of 3Pillars lies the belief in the transformative power of rugby coached by dedicated role models and mentors. A sport renowned for its physicality and discipline, has become a dynamic tool in the arsenal of the 3Pillars Project. Firstly, rugby provides a structured outlet for energy and emotions, teaching people to manage conflict and frustration in a controlled environment. A physical space for young men to practice controlled aggression, fostering discipline, resilience, and teamwork. Through rugby, participants learn to channel their energy and emotions in a positive and constructive manner, gaining valuable skills for conflict resolution and self-regulation. Secondly, mentoring plays a crucial role in this process. The guidance and support provided by experienced mentors enable young men to navigate challenges, overcome barriers, and build positive relationships. Thirdly, and possibly the most overlooked aspect is the opportunity for the young men to play.

It’s proven that play improves the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and young people. Through play, children learn about the world and themselves. They also learn skills they need for study, work and relationships such as confidence and resilience. Yet, for many young people who find themselves behind bars, play was not a prominent feature in their childhood and often through broken home life, neglect and deprivation they are forced to skip this fundamental development opportunity. Dilon, a 20 year old involved in the programme spoke in a workshop about

“feeling young, being able to run around in the rain, make friends and have fun, this course is like having the childhood I never had”.

Through rugby and mentoring, participants experience the opportunity to practice skills, make mistakes, be involved in healthy competition and build camaraderie, cultivating a sense of belonging and purpose.

Education as a Catalyst for Reintegration:

Education stands tall as one of the three pillars of the charity's approach. Those in the youth justice system are often detached, or formally excluded, from formal education, they tend to have lower reading ages than their true age, and experience poor educational outcomes. 3Pillars recognises that education provides the key to unlock opportunities for personal growth and successful reintegration. Earlier this month, when running the Rugby Academy in a Midlands prison, Jaf, a young man who has spent the past few months in solitary confinement (segregation), said:

“This course has given me a way to stay stable in a really unstable environment. I’ve finally been able to leave segregation and found friends on the course who have supported me to be placed on a new wing”.

By offering access to educational learning opportunities, from basic literacy and numeracy to vocational training, 3Pillars equips young men with the skills and knowledge necessary to rebuild their lives. Education empowers them to pursue meaningful careers, fostering a sense of self-worth and a positive vision for the future.

Embracing Ethos and Lived Experience: Realising the Power of Empathy

Amidst the complexities of prison reform, empathy serves as a foundational element within 3Pillars Project. The charity recognises that genuine compassion and understanding are vital in creating an environment where individuals feel truly heard and supported. By fostering this environment 3Pillars instills a sense of self-worth and belonging in individuals who may have felt marginalised and forgotten. The ethos of 3Pillars Project revolves around the belief that those who have gained worldly experience or have walked a similar path can offer unique insights and inspiration to those currently facing challenges. The charity utilises wisdom from many walks of life, employing practitioners with diverse experience including mentoring, military service, sport, and firsthand experience of the criminal justice system. These individuals serve as coaches, mentors and role models, offering guidance, empathy, and a genuine understanding of the obstacles faced by young men. Their presence fosters trust, authenticity, and understanding. By addressing the underlying issues that can contribute to criminal behaviour,

“This experience has been the highlight of my prison experience and has helped me develop my personal attributes, therefore giving me a glimmer of hope for the future.” Jack, 24, 2023 participant.

3Pillars enable young men to heal, develop positive coping mechanisms, and build healthier relationships with themselves and others. Empathy serves as the catalyst for lasting change, empowering young men to embrace new possibilities and rewrite their life narratives.

The Next Phase:

As we celebrate 3Pillars Project's five-year anniversary, it is essential to recognise the remarkable strides the charity has made in improving life outcomes for young men within the prison system. Through its steadfast commitment 3Pillars has created a roadmap to rehabilitation that has empowered over 300 individuals to break free from the cycle of reoffending and build brighter futures. Through careful evaluation and data analysis, the charity measures its success in reducing reoffending rates, improving educational attainment, and fostering positive behavioural change.

The journey doesn't end here, the charity remains committed to expanding its reach, refining its programmes, and advocating for wider systemic change. The vision is to create a society where prison reform is driven by compassion, understanding, and the belief in the potential for transformation in every individual.The impact of their work reverberates far beyond the walls of prisons, creating a ripple effect of positive change in individuals, communities, and society at large. As the charity continues to expand its reach and make a profound difference in the lives of young men, let us celebrate its achievements and support its mission to create a society that believes in second chances.


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