The British prison population is over 86,000. On release, prisoners receive £46. Lacking money, education, a job, a stable family and a home, over 70% re-offend. Their life is spent in and out of prison.The Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund helps to break this vicious cycle. At the critical time when a prisoner is released, the Fund gives small grants to supply a vital need. It also gives large grants to prison-based charitable schemes which work towards the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners. For an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Fund’s grants, please click on Independent Evaluation.
Typical grants to Individuals
£250 provided bunk beds for an ex-prisoner’s children
£500 bought the equipment for a man to set up in business as a window cleaner
£1,000 gave four ex-prisoners courses in IT skills
£5,000 enabled 50 ex-prisoners to buy clothes suitable for a job interview
£10,000 paid for eight fork-lift truck driving courses
£250 bought a washing machine for a prisoner’s wife who had been doing the washing for her four children and herself in the bath
£30,000 enabled HMP Brixton to give training and mentoring to twenty prisoners which secured employment on release
How the Fund works
The Fund has two part-time administrative staff, working in an office kindly provided by the Corporation of London. The Chairman and all other staff are voluntary.
The Probation Service and other Social Welfare agencies recommend people for grants, mainly in the first weeks after release, when ex-prisoners are at most risk of re-offending. The Fund immediately evaluates applications and decides which grants to award. Grant money is then handled not by the ex-prisoner but by the recommending Service.
The Fund reacts speedily to requests: “I recently sent you a funding request and asked for it to be returned as soon as possible. This particular application was returned within 3 working days of me sending it and I am so grateful that you were not only able to fund the request, but also take the time to return it so quickly.”
Recent grants to individuals have been for:
Training for jobs and qualifications
Nearly two thirds of UK prisoners had no qualifications and no job before their sentence. The Fund gives grants for appropriate vocational courses.
*Dave was unqualified and had been floating round on a building site as a casual labourer. Thanks to the Fund he is now a qualified tower crane driver in regular employment.
Most prisoners come out owning only the clothes they are wearing, which may no longer even fit, let alone be appropriate for a job interview or family occasion.
*Nikki had been in treatment for six months. She had two children and had had a very difficult childhood. When her grandmother died she was able to buy a suit and shoes for the funeral as well as everyday wear. It was an external indication of what tremendous progress she was making in her life, and empowered her to join in a family event.
Tools of trade
In many jobs it is essential to have your own tools and equipment – which the State does not provide.
*The Fund’s grants for tools enabled two young ex-prisoners to resume their jobs as electrician’s mate and plasterer
Electrical goods and furniture
When an ex-prisoner is allocated accommodation, it often has very little or inadequate equipment.
*Griffin was in shared hostel accommodation. He used to buy his food and put it in the communal fridge, but other residents stole it. He started keeping it in his room but it was summertime, and the food went off. The Fund gave him a small fridge so he could store his essential supplies and keep within his tight budget.
Support for families
Prisoners’ partners and children suffer. The Fund provides days out, basic equipment, holidays, and financial help at Christmas.
*The Fund paid for a group of prisoners’ children to have a short summer holiday at Pontins – an expense quite beyond their carers’ means.
Grants to charities for particular projects in mentoring, training and job opportunities:
£30,000 to HMP Brixton
£30,000 to HMP Isis
£30,000 to HMP Downview – working with vulnerable women prisoners through continuous mentoring for employment on release.