Holme House prison: Inside 'the wing that saved my life'

TC wing
Image caption The wing at Holme House is helping inmates face life on the outside

A "total immersion programme" at a prison on Teesside has been praised for cutting the number of inmates who end up returning to jail, bosses have said.

Nationally, 30% of released prisoners reoffend in the first year, but for those who emerged from the programme at Holme House Prison in Stockton last year the figure was just 6%.

Therapeutic Community (TC) unit inmates have to take on jobs in the prison and be drug tested.

Bryn, a former prisoner, said: "Coming to jail I was terrified but I got on the TC wing and it saved my life."

Image caption Prisoners have to demonstrate good behaviour to get on the wing

TC was set up in 1995, and 98 men came through last year until release.

Prisoners have to earn a spot on the wing and once there demonstrate good behaviour and a willingness to beat their addictions.

They have to commit to a job, which could be painting walls, serving meals or cleaning toilets, and follow a stringent set of rules.

These include taking a drug test every two weeks, wearing certain clothes at certain times, and speaking to staff and each other in a respectful manner.

In return they are offered a series of courses designed to prepare them for release and avoid them returning to prison.

Here, some of those who have been through the programme explain how it has helped them.

Prison an 'alien world'

Bryn is now back at home after serving his sentence for fraud after getting into financial trouble because of drugs.

He credits TC with enabling him to beat his cocaine addiction, which started with his inability to come to terms with his son's stillbirth.

Speaking prior to his release, he said what was special about the wing was that "responsibility is put back into the hands of the prisoners".

He said: "Doing the groups and the support really helped me get to the root of the problem - it was grief and once I'd confronted that I could confront everything else.

"I've got this role which means I help lads with their reading and writing, and I'm very, very proud of some of the lads I've got through the course.

"It might sound silly but if you can take from prison a positive experience like that... I've made a difference to someone's life and I'm really proud of that.

"Does the TC work? Yes. Does it make you better than it was when you came here? Yes.

"It gave me tools I will constantly use when I get out."

'A better person'

Gary said being on the wing after being jailed for financial offences had helped him "get closure" on a number of issues.

He said: "I'm fortunate to be in this wing because I'm treated well, they genuinely show an interest in you - I don't want to be just a number, I want a name.

"TC has been a godsend for me, it has made me realise I'm not the bad person I thought I was.

"My confidence is coming back, my self-esteem is coming back, I couldn't go back to where I was, i.e. Durham or other wings on Holme House.

"I don't think I'll be a bad person after being in prison, I think I'll be a much better person. I'm excited about the future."

'Good atmosphere'

Rashid is head of TC wing after being locked up for drugs offences and is also its "best hairdresser", according to fellow inmates.

He said: "I know TC is prison but without this programme I wouldn't be learning much.

"I had a bad temper [but] I'm thinking very positive now, if I have an issue or a problem I won't go off it, I think about it rather than just react.

"It's tough, sometimes you get called names, [other prisoners] give you a mouthful but you ignore them, you don't know what problems they've got, so leave them for two hours then go back and talk to them, then they appreciate it.

"It's a good atmosphere for rehabilitation but you've got to want to be changed, [if not] it won't work for you.

"I cannot do this again, I will lose my family, there's no next time for me."

'Violently minded'

Self-confessed career criminal, Mark, who has spent 25 of the past 30 years in prison for violent offences, is on an associated wing for those hoping to move on to TC wing.

He said: "I've always been criminally minded, I've always been violently minded, and for me to get out I need to change.

"TC is a different environment to being on a normal house block, it's not run by prison staff, it's run by civilians, who can help you integrate.

"I'm hoping it will help me socialise better, because that's something I can't do.

"I know getting on to TC is not going to be the miracle cure because I've been in too long, but I'm just hoping it helps me change my way of thinking, because at the minute I don't even want parole, I don't want to see over that wall because I'm not ready for it."

Listen to a full documentary on Holme House on BBC Sounds

Image caption The wing tries to reinforce a positive message

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