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Inside line: how we choose our partner prisons

We are often asked how we choose which prisons we partner with and so here we provide insight into our selection process. What many of you won’t know is just how different many prisons can be.

Step 1: We work with men aged between 15-30

Neuroscientists now believe that the male human brain is fully developed by the time someone is 25 years old, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals. Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take place well into one's 20s. Many say that someone’s 18th birthday marks the transition from childhood to adulthood as this is typically the age you become fully independent in the eyes of the law, but science suggests differently.

"The preponderance of young men engaging in these deadly, evil, and stupid acts of violence may be a result of brains that have yet to fully developed," Howard Forman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

A key part of managing behaviour is the development of the prefrontal cortex, a significant part of the brain, in terms of social interactions, it affects how we regulate emotions, control impulsive behaviour, assess risk and make long-term plans. Also important are the brain's reward systems, which are especially excitable during adolescence. These parts of the brain can take more than 25 years to reach maturity.

At 3Pillars Project we believe there’s a key opportunity to support young people aged between 15-30, by understanding the scientific reasons why they may not have yet developed the skills to regulate their behaviour, we believe we can effectively support people at the time they need it most through intensive mentoring and tailored workshops. Which is why we will often seek prisons or Young Offenders Institutions with cohorts of young men aged between 15-30 to engage in our programme.

Step 2: Being best placed to support long-term

There were a total of 20,898 recorded incidences of prisoner transfer during the latest quarter (2% decrease from last year). The majority of these (73%) were routine inter-prison transfers. 17,359 prisoners had at least one incidence of a transfer in the quarter ending December 2019.

Prisoners may be transferred from one prison to another for several reasons including their security category has changed, the prisoner’s sentence plan requires them to complete a course which is not available at the prison they are in, disruptive behaviour or for their safety.

Historically, 3Pillars Project has recognised a pattern of participants of our in-custody Rugby Academy delivered in London being transferred to prisons in the midlands or further north of the country. We have continued to support them throughout their sentence through regular contact and access to our Fitness Academy post-release programme. Our delivery model is just as relevant to prisons in other parts of the country as it is in the south. With more requests and a greater requirement of support from charities to rehabilitate prisoners whilst provision was at a standstill for the past 12 months during the pandemic, we recognise the role we can play in supporting more young people in prisons throughout the country. The Midlands has a high crime rate, a high density of prisons with the population we support and has a requirement for more rehabilitation interventions. Therefore, from this year we will operate in prisons in the south of the country and the Midlands.

Step 3: Culture

Culture is integral to us at 3Pillars Project. But what do we mean by it? We believe everyone has within themselves “the will to succeed”. Success is defined by the individual not anyone else.

Success is believing you can, overcoming fear, doing your best, learning, setting goals, persevering, feeling happy, and having a sense of achievement relevant to you. How others measure success is up to them. Whilst a flash car, top level job or big house might factor in people’s manifestation of success we focus on measuring success as the difference between where you are now to where you started, and the willingness to keep trying.

Therefore, when discussing the scope of 3Pillars Project operating in a prison we identify whether the members of staff at the prison can embrace the way we work. This is essential as we work closely alongside members of prison staff throughout many departments when delivering the academy. A key indicator is the type of participant they recommend enrolling in our academy, we often work with the hardest to engage young people who are either disinterested in other programmes or have behavioural considerations that limit their acceptance onto traditional courses. Because we believe everyone can succeed, we can gather insight into whether our programme can succeed within a prison’s culture. Where we feel commitment to rehabilitation in prisons by prison staff, we have found we can achieve a much greater impact though our work.


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