An adaptation of Irish Red Cross’s award-winning Community Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) prison programme launched in Wales could cut crime rates, the UK’s Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove has said.
Speaking at the recent launch of the programme at Parc Prison in Bridgend, Mr Gove met people involved in the project, which is based on the CBHFA programme implemented across all 14 prisons in the Republic of Ireland.
“It was fascinating to see this project for myself and meet the prisoners involved in this potentially life-saving training.
"These men will go on to play an important mentoring role to other prisoners within HMP [Her Majesty’s Prison] Parc.
“Voluntary service such as this can be an important step in a prisoner's rehabilitation and it is only through better rehabilitation that we will reduce reoffending, cut crime and make our streets safer,” Mr Gove said.
The programme is being implemented by the British Red Cross after it was joined by officials from Parc Prison and Public Health Wales at a CBHFA Sensitisation Workshop at the Irish Prison Service Training College in Portlaoise last January.
The British Red Cross has recruited 13 prisoners as volunteers who will undergo training to become peer educators and mentors within the prison.
After completing a series of training modules, which includes First Aid, disease prevention and health promotion, the volunteers will use their new knowledge to provide peer-to-peer learning to fellow prisoners.
“This is the first time we have adapted our education agenda to suit a prison community. We have signed up a number of prisoners as Red Cross volunteers and will support them over a period of 15 months as they undergo a programme of education.
“The aim is to help them assess what risks there are in their own community and give them the confidence to share their learning in order to influence a positive change,” Cara Saunders, Youth Engagement and Diversity Manager at the British Red Cross.
Head of Residence at HMP Parc, Ian Coles, said prisoners respond better to guidance from their peers – particularly those who have overcome problems such as substance misuse or difficulties with building positive relationships.
“The results of this programme in Ireland and initial findings from our pilot at HMP Parc suggest that this partnership will help us to improve prisoner health and encourage more prisoners to take an active role in the prison community as mentors,” Mr Coles said.