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Results

Engagement Between TSOs and Offenders

The number of TSOs that each prison claimed was active in their establishment at the time of data collection ranged from 15 to 31. However, the respondents reported having heard of, on average, just four organizations, and had engaged with an average of only one. The results for each establishment are presented in Table 7.2 and Fig. 7.1. They indicate low overall engagement levels with TSOs, with minor variations between prisons.

Table 7.2 Prisoner self-reported awareness of and engagement with TSOs

Prison

ID

No. of TSOs per prison

Median no. and range of TSOs that respondents had engaged with

Median no. and range of TSOs that respondents know of

No.

Range

No.

Range

i

22

i

0-21

6

0-22

2

i5

i

0-6

8

4-i5

3

24

0

0-i6

6

0-24

4

i5

i

0-4

2

0-9

5

i8

i

0-4

4

0-i7

6

3i

i

0-i7

i0

0-28

7

3i

0.5

0-6

6

0-i3

8

20

0

0-i3

3

0-i8

Percentage of respondents in each prison that had heard of/engaged with TSOs

Fig. 7.1 Percentage of respondents in each prison that had heard of/engaged with TSOs

In the qualitative interviews with TSOs, we examined some of the key barriers that TSOs reported in trying to engage with offenders. Many TSOs reported a reduction in funding and staffing, and several confessed that they are no longer able to provide “what it says on the tin” (i.e., what their aims and objectives dictate):

It’s just me now providing the housing advice unfortunately. So people say “Oh [the name of the organization] is here. There is someone providing housing options. That’s all right then we can tick that box.” And then prisoners wait and wait for weeks to see me and when they do they ask, “Well why did I have to wait so long to see you?” They don’t realize it’s really just me now. (Participant T405)

Also, a number of organizations reported that working in a prison setting often meant access to very limited resources, which often prevented them from making their services known in the prison as well as from accessing prisoners. As a consequence, several organizations talked about experiencing significant difficulties in trying to establish a continued presence, which would put them on the radar of the prison staff and offenders alike:

On a site like this, it is actually quite difficult, as we don’t have an office with a phone, which is a bit of a nightmare. Which is why I tend to work from home. This means that getting hold of people [that is, offenders] can be quite difficult.... We’ve had staff, not obstructive, just ... we’re not on their radar if you know what I mean. And it’s really difficult to get them to see us as a helpful service. (Participant T401)

There are also a few practical difficulties, because I’m based in the visitors center. I still don’t have any kind of telephone where I can actually talk to people privately so I’m not in a private office or anything like that. I haven’t been able to access my emails for about three weeks because there’s been staff training in the computer room, so I’ve simply not been able to get in there. So I just sit here not able to work, not able to do anything. So why am I here then? (Participant T106)

Several organizations reported experiencing difficulties in trying to engage prison staff in promoting the organization among prisoners. They noted that staff often showed little interest in the work done by TSOs and did not make appropriate referrals or strive to raise awareness of organizations among prisoners:

We also have barriers of prejudice amongst certain members of the staff. Prejudice is probably too strong, it’s just disinterest. A lot of prison staff know about [the name of the program], they’re not anti-[the name of the program], but they’re not really interested in facilitating it. They just don’t really care at all, so it’s like, “I am not against you, it’s just, I’ve got too many things to do.” (Participant T208)

If the offender respondents had heard of an organization but not worked with it, we asked them why this was so. They were offered a choice of six answers and were asked to select the most appropriate one for each organization.

As shown in Fig. 7.2, the primary reasons that survey respondents reported for not engaging with organizations that they were familiar with

Reported reasons for not engaging with TSOs

Fig. 7.2 Reported reasons for not engaging with TSOs

were that they did not know anything about the particular organization, or that the organization was not deemed relevant to their needs (“I don’t think they can help me”). There were no significant variations in answers between the seven resettlement pathways.

Data from the qualitative interviews with offenders revealed the reasons why they chose to engage with TSOs and the services they provide. The most common reason was that prisoners felt they needed the help that TSOs potentially offer:

I just needed to ... I got addicted to crack and this is why it’s left me in prison. So I just thought I’ve got to clean up.. It’s done me the world of good. (Participant O808)

They are trying to help me with two problems: the housing benefit and the finance, which I cannot pay when I am in prison. (Participant O210)

In a small number of cases, respondents reported engaging with TSOs due to boredom and the hope that it might give them something to do. But engagement with TSOs was also seen to help offenders to form links with organizations outside of prison with the hope of continuing such connections on release, “I thought it would be quite useful to join an organization that I could then link up to on the way out” (Participant O117).

 
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