Naomi Tomes, a prison officer at HMP Bullingdon, joined 3Pillars project on placement for two weeks as part of her progression on the Unlocked Graduate scheme. Collaboration and knowledge sharing across the sectors is so key to our work here at 3Pillars, and we were thrilled to welcome Naomi to the team. Here is Naomi on her experience here:
My normal workday sees me in HMPS Bullingdon, I am a prison officer on the Unlocked graduate scheme. I have spent my last 2 weeks working alongside the charity 3Pillars Project. They support those same men that I do in prison and those that are in that crucial yet vulnerable ‘through the gate’ period when they have just been released.
It is so encouraging to see 3Pillars as a safe space where they can progressively develop themselves in a stable and supportive environment. These young men are given positive male and female role models, in the form of mentors, other employees, coaches, professional sportsmen and a whole community that is open-minded, progressive and dynamic.
During my time with 3Pillars I had the pleasure of observing one of the 3Pillars coaches run a fitness session with some young men on ROTL[Release on Temporary License] from HMPYOI Feltham. This coach had spent time in various prison establishments over a period of five years and therefore had the advantage of lived experience in the prison system. I believe that this enabled the young men from HMPYOI Feltham to feel more at ease with and relate more easily to the coach. An extremely powerful advantage - the coach was a living, approachable example of what is possible if you are willing to make a change and turn away from negative and criminal behaviours.
The coach was a calm and collected role-model. This had tremendous positive impact on the
young men he was coaching. We often forget that young men in the criminal justice system are still learning and transitioning into adulthood. It was encouraging to see the coach encourage their playful and childlike nature but with an aspect of discipline and physical encouragement to push themselves. The opportunity for those young boys to spend time with a relatable, but positive male role model had evident impact. We must, as a sector provide more outlets and and opportunities for these young men to visualise a positive personal development pathway. One where they see themselves as law-abiding citizens, leading a valuable and positive lifestyle.
I also had the opportunity to work alongside a young man who has been in prison for over ten years and who has recently become part of the 3Pillars team. 3Pillars are providing employment opportunities to someone who has never had a job before, a prospect that can be a barrier to successful rehabilitation. 3Pillars is a place to gain further qualifications, in coaching, fitness, mental health and even mentoring; a place that has the capacity to provide men with new networks and connections that can potentially help establish future career prospects and much more.
3Pillars Project is still a new organisation and what they have managed to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time is astonishing. Their work ethic and drive as an organisation to deliver high quality, effective sports programmes to young men in the criminal justice system and to those vulnerable to crime, through sports-based mentoring is nothing short of exceptional. I truly believe that in order for the prison system to progress, there needs to be an increased and diverse collaboration with organisations such as 3 Pillars. Organisations that can provide opportunities for men in the prison that give feasible and practical pathways towards rehabilitation and positive self-development, away from a life of a crime.
The key values that I will be taking away from my time spent at 3Pillars are; to never underestimate the power of communication, talking and building slow, solid bonds and to always be prepared with a plan because “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail!”. I have observed the transformative impact that having positive reinforcement, praise, direction and a supportive atmosphere can have on a vulnerable individual. I have further understood the value of remaining resilient in the face of adversity; if you believe you can do something you are already halfway there. 3Pillars Project confirmed what I already knew - sport changes lives. Sport is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used in a multitude of ways. It helps channel frustration into a healthy physical outlet, it can help to improve mental wellbeing, it creates lasting communities, it can provide an individual with a sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Sport can give hope to those that cannot see hope in their future.
It was a busy two weeks, where alongside mentoring I got stuck into everything that 3Pillars does. Part of the small team, I also got to grips with the basics of graphic design and social media content creation, as well as advising on best practice for partnerships with the prison and probation services, supporting staff safety and security policies and generating ideas for advertising and marketing strategies. I also had the opportunity to speak about the prison system and 3Pillars work at a Children In Need event at the BBC, a chance to relate the realities of the prison system to those who would not normally hear about it. I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside some talented and enthusiastic young men that are leading the way for others to follow. Thank you to 3Pillars for an incredibly eye-opening, inspiring and motivating experience.