30th November issue

Recovering hope

How a caring regime can offer real freedom.

The recent debates on recovery have subjected this simple word to a maelstrom of different organisations’ agendas. But if you’re in prison it means pretty much one thing – swapping a one-dimensional lifestyle focused on drugs for a chance to take part in ‘real’ life again. This can seem very remote for new arrivals, but the staff team
members at Lancaster are determined to make sure that choice and optimism are a part of a culture that’s dominated by the signs of incarceration. They seem to be achieving results. Taking the support that was offered, John was among those who changed his entire outlook on life and said he ‘started to feel free in prison’ (page 8).

Despite the environment of locked gates everywhere, staff were keen to emphasise that there was always an open door for prisoners who needed help, and they were constantly encouraged to talk through the possible next stage of their recovery with the CARAT team as soon as they were ready. Staff and prisoners seemed to be working as a team to think about the future, to make sure that their work at Lancaster was building a stable base on which they could thrive outside.

There were no debates here about whether recovery was worth bothering with and what it should mean, merely a patient process of guiding inmates towards it. Nor did the word represent just one route, but a choice of 12-step groups or cognitive behaviour-based work – whichever would plant meaningful roots for the participant. ‘It’s about getting people to gather recovery capital,’ a senior probation officer remarked – and this meant support in every area of life. The day at Lancaster was interesting in many ways – but not least for
stripping down the word ‘recovery’ to its essence.

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