Cumbria Reducing Offending Partnership (CROPT) is a charitable company limited by guarantee that supports and is involved at varying levels with a group of projects and activities across Cumbria all designed to give community support to offenders and ex-offenders.
An inter-denominational group continued to meet every couple of months to look at what else was happening and what further might be done. The Probation Service offered to fund a conference, which happened in September 2005. Between 60 and 70 people involved in some way with offenders attended and a conference report was produced. When the steering group met again, they decided to broaden the base because they realised that others without a church connection were also active in this field and that there were potential allies both in Cumbria and nationally. Representatives of a number of secular charitable agencies were therefore invited to join the steering group. It was also decided to widen the approach to include the only prison in Cumbria, HMP Haverigg, a Category C prison for about 640 men situated in Millom.
The group was still talking in 2006, but by now potential partnerships and further ideas were starting to take shape. The Brathay Trust, with others, designed and found funding for a project (PROSPECTS) aimed at getting offenders into employment and supporting them there. The Ruskin Foundation put project money into working with prisoners at HMP Haverigg to produce a regular prison newsletter, whilst Mothers’ Union members taught cookery in the Carlisle Bail Hostel. However, the steering group, which by this time had adopted the title ‘Cumbria Reducing Offending Partnership (CROP), were not in a position to apply for funding themselves as the group at the time had no official status. They realised, therefore, that they needed to get charitable status and then secure money for a full-time project worker. Although David Peacock’s term of office chairing the Probation Board ended in 2008, he was asked to continue to develop this initiative.
Charitable status was achieved in 2009. CROPT then put in a bid to the Northern Rock Foundation for £100,000. Northern Rock offered half this amount provided CROPT could match it within six months. This was done through funding from the Probation Service, NOMS, the Methodist Church and the Quakers.
2. To advance the education of the public in the underlying causes of and appropriate responses to offending behaviours.
· It gives support to, and sources funding for Seagull, the first prison community newspaper, which is produced by prisoners at HMP Haverigg. Published three times a year and delivered to homes in and around Millom, it has a circulation of 7,000 and in 2009 and 2010 it was the Koestler ‘Magazine Journalism’ award winner.
· It convenes meetings of the ‘Friends of Haverigg’, a group of volunteers who seek ways of improving life for prisoners and their families at HMP Haverigg.
· It is currently working with the management of HMP Haverigg to look at ways of involving volunteers in the running of the prison shop, a retail outlet which sells a wide range of produce grown on the prison farm, as well as other goods produced by prisoners.
· ‘Circles of Support and Accountability’ (see Box below) is a national way of working with sex offenders based on a Canadian model, now operating in ten areas of the UK. CROPT was instrumental in setting up the Cumbria Circles and is represented on the management board. Cumbria Circles recruit and train volunteers to work with sex offenders who have served significant sentences. Each Circle is made up of between four and six volunteers and a sex offender known as ‘the core member’. The volunteers and core member meet weekly for the first year and then as they jointly deem necessary. Running costs for a single Circle are in the region of £3,000 p.a. A Probation Officer is seconded by Cumbria Probation Trust to Circles for two days per week to train and supervise volunteers and to identify suitable core members. Currently they are working with about six offenders per year.
· The Service User Project led by CROPT in partnership with Cumbria Probation Trust is a one-to-one Buddy Project introducing ex-offenders to employment opportunities, so far involving about 10 people and very successful. It is funded by Achieve North West a consortium of the five North West Probation Trusts, headed by Merseyside Probation Trust, which successfully bid to deliver Round 1 of the NOMS European Social Fund Project “Services to improve the employment prospects of offenders”.
· The PROSPECTS project led by The Brathay Trust focuses on employability skills and aims to move ex-offenders into employment.
· Art for Offenders works with offenders and ex-offenders to encourage creative arts activities.
· Scafell Project is a multi-agency project led by Cumbria Probation Trust which works with persistent and prolific offenders to provide Intensive Alternatives to Custody. CROPT has helped with the provision of cookery and gardening classes.
· Cook and Eat, which teaches basic cookery skills, is run by a member of the Mothers’ Union at the Bowling Green Bail Hostel in Carlisle.
· Sports activities have also been provided by volunteers from time to time at the Bowling Green Bail Hostel, the most successful of which has been five-a-side football at Carlisle United’s training ground. These activities can be difficult to sustain because of the turnover of people in and out of the hostel. Cumbria Association for Social Support (CASS) have now asked CROPT for volunteers to provide five-a-side football opportunities for offenders and ex-offenders in West Cumbria.
· Women’s Project – ‘Feel Good Factor’: CASS has asked CROPT to work with a small group of women ex-offenders from West Cumbria who are in the process of setting up a support network for women in similar situations. As a result, the CROPT Development Worker is meeting them fortnightly to help them develop, for example, their listening skills.
· A multi-agency consortium in Carlisle is also aiming to address the needs of women ex-offenders and now has a fledgling group. CROPT gave assistance with a ‘Pampering Day’ for women ex-offenders on International Women’s Day and is now working to gain the support of other agencies to which clients can be signposted for different kinds of assistance.
· CROPT has a successful and rapidly developing trading arm that markets garden produce and other goods, selling them through two local churches. This project, run two days per week by a volunteer GP with people from the Bowling Green Hostel, has a large allotment in the middle of a housing estate provided rent free by the local authority.The project has also undertaken coppicing work for Carlisle City Council.
· Work with Armed Service Veterans. A senior manager in the Probation Service saw a gap in provision for service veterans and, as a result, the Probation Trust funded research which showed that there are about 60 ex-soldiers on probation in Cumbria at any one time and others in some sort of trouble. CROPT is now working with Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advice Service (CADAS) to seek Lottery funding for a project aimed at providing a range of support services for ex-services personnel.. The British Legion is also supportive of this venture.
· Bendrigg Trust: CROPT has secured funding from Countrywide UK to enable offenders referred by the Scafell Project and Barrow Probation to work as volunteers with the Bendrigg Trust, which provides outdoor experience for young people and adults with disabilities.
· The Volunteer Project underpins all the other work. The number of volunteers is growing, but at present there are about 27 active volunteers and a number waiting to be placed. Additionally, in the Women’s Group all five volunteers are ex-offenders.
Lessons have been learnt from projects such as PROSPECTS and Art for Offenders about the need to bring activities to where people are. It is too easy to assume that people are either willing or able to travel to distant, unfamiliar locations. It is important to start where clients are in the widest sense – emotionally and psychologically as well as physically – and not to make assumptions about what is best for them but rather obtain enough information about their needs, possibilities and preferences given their frequently chaotic lifestyles.
However, the project was only possible with the enormous support of the Probation Service. Senior management recognised the potential added value of CROPT and the way that it could help the Service meet its targets. It may be significant that the Probation Service grew out of the Church of England Mission to Police Courts and that its original role was to “advise, befriend and guide”. In the 2000s, it underwent a major cultural shift in becoming more centralised and focused on punishment. It may be that CROPT is seen to recapture some of its original values.
· Northern Rock Foundation
· National Offender Management Service
· Cumbria Methodist District
· Religious Society of Friends
· European Social Fund via Achieve Northwest.
· Cumbria Probation Trust
· HMP Haverigg
· National Offender Management Service
· Cumbria CVS
· Cumbria Mentorpoint
· The Ruskin Foundation
· Cumbria Methodist Church
· Cumbria Society of Friends
· Churches Together in Cumbria
· The Diocese of Carlisle Board for Social Responsibility
· The Brathay Trust
Outcome measures of success are more difficult to define and it is important to manage the expectations of funders and volunteers. Re-offending rates are too crude. For example, with prolific offenders it may be more realistic to aim to extend the time between offending rather than expect a complete break; alcoholic offenders may return to alcohol but not re-offend. There needs, too, to be a balance between quantitative and qualitative measures. Nevertheless, CROPT has been concerned to examine its effectiveness. An independent evaluation was carried out after its first year of operation and remains ongoing.
Two themes have emerged from the work that are critical to success with this hard-to-reach client group. First, mentoring and befriending are a necessary basis to other activities. Second, employment, work experience and volunteering opportunities are important for raising self esteem and combating the boredom that can lead to offending behaviour.
· Sometimes CROPT encounters negative attitudes though less than they might have anticipated.
· Gaining the confidence of professionals on the ground can be difficult. There has never been a problem at a strategic level but in the context of cuts, people are concerned about their employment and worry that CROPT might do their job ‘on the cheap’.
· The geography of Cumbria – the distances people need to travel – can make it more difficult to get groups together.
· Support from different denominations has varied and there has been disappointment that some do not seem to "live up to the social gospel”.
'Circles of Support and Accountability’ - are an innovative and successful community contribution to reducing sex offending, working in close partnership with criminal justice agencies. A ’Circle’ is a group of Volunteers from a local community which forms a Circle around an offender. In Circles, the sex offender is referred to as the 'Core Member'. Each Circle consists of four to six Volunteers and a Core Member. It aims to provide a supportive social network that also requires the Core Member to take responsibility (be ‘accountable’) for his/her ongoing risk management. The Circle can also provide support and practical guidance in such things as developing their social skills, finding suitable accommodation or helping the Core Member to find appropriate hobbies and interests. Volunteers are fully informed of the Core Member's past pattern of offending, and whilst helping them to settle into the community, the Volunteers also assist them to recognise patterns of thought and behaviour that could lead to their re-offending. Within a Circle, the Core Member can grow in self-esteem and develop healthy adult relationships, maximising his or her chances of successfully re-integrating into the community in a safe and fulfilling way. The Core Member is involved from the beginning, is included in all decision making and, like all other members of the Circle, signs a contract committing him or herself to the Circle and its aims. Each Circle is unique, because it is individually designed around the needs of the Core Member.
Circles work in partnership with Police, Probation, local Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements and other professionals working in the field of child protection. Circles has at its heart the aim of preventing further sexual abuse, working with the objective of no more victims. Circles do this by;
· Helping a Core Member to reintegrate responsibly into the community.
· Acting as a support and safety mechanism for both Core Member and the community.
Six key values of Circles have been identified;
· Safety - We work towards the objective of no more victims.
· Responsibility – Holding individuals and organisations to accountable for their actions.
· Inclusiveness – Managing risk through inclusion not exclusion.
· Community involvement – Recognising the importance of community involvement.
· Growth and learning – Recognising that with necessary support and challenge, people have the ability to grow, learn and change their behaviour.
· Individuality and respect – Treating people with humanity and respect.