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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 03:01 GMT
'Jail has turned my life around'
Scott, inmate at Brixton Prison
Scott says contact with his family has increased ten-fold
New ways of helping inmates and families bond are being trialled at HMP Brixton in London. A prisoner tells BBC News how the experience has changed his life.

It has taken a seven-year sentence for grievous bodily harm and some serious thinking for Scott to start taking his role as a father to heart.

With 12 children and as many grandchildren to his name, he admits it is about time he took a proper interest.

Now in his late 40s, he credits his stretch in Brixton prison for opening his eyes.

He says: "For me it's been a whole complete turn-around in my life. The structures in here have helped, as well as my own desire for change."

He says the more relaxed family visits introduced at Brixton have played a big part in bringing him closer to his relatives.

It's made me realise how important it is to not be away from them in the future
Scott, offender at Brixton Prison

Scott says: "Obviously being in prison puts a strain on your family, especially for myself and a lot of the guys where it's not the first time.

"My children are much more willing, more receptive to visit in this kind of environment than in the normal one with all the procedures and rigmaroles.

"Every month it gives you something to look forward to and gives your family something to look forward to.

"It's made me realise how important it is to not be away from them in the future. The more you see them, the more the bonds grow.

Barred door at Brixton Prison
On release, Scott hopes to use his experience to help young offenders

"Most of my children are adults now and for me it's about rebuilding certain relationships with them - and looking to the future and what kind of relationship I have with my grandchildren."

Scott says the prison's Family Man course, which teaches social responsibility and parenting skills, has motivated him and taught him a new confidence.

He also works inside the jail as a listener - part of a team of Samaritans-trained volunteers giving practical advice to fellow inmates who are struggling to cope.

Some are severely depressed, self harming or suicidal, others are coping with learning difficulties or autism.

Cramped cell

Despite the positives Scott has found, he insists no-one wants to spend time locked in jail sharing a cramped six-foot by eight cell with a stranger.

He says: "I've been here two years and I have tried to make the best of a bad situation.

Nothing will ever be perfect but I would say half the battle is won
Scott

"I'm just fortunate to come to prison at a time when we have a governor who is quite progressive in his thinking towards the holistic approach to recidivism."

Scott acknowledges his offence was serious but hopes society will give him the chance to prove his new commitment to a law-abiding life.

On release in 18 months, he hopes to work for mentoring programmes which keep vulnerable young people away from crime.

He adds: "All I can say is my family are happy, my contact has increased ten-fold and I have for a change something to look forward to with my family when I leave prison.

"I've rebuilt that bond over the time I've been here. Nothing will ever be perfect but I would say half the battle is won."




SEE ALSO:
Prison visits 'cut reoffending'
04 Oct 04  |  Scotland


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