Starting work in a prison resettlement team

In this guest post, we hear from a Khulisa supporter, Mily Saraswat, who has recently begun working in a prison resettlement team. Mily has a Masters in Criminology and Forensic Psychology and is currently completing a PhD in the same field.

Having worked in a prison environment now for 3 weeks, I feel a mixture of feelings – excitement at starting a new job, anticipation of making a positive difference to the lives of the vulnerable, encouragement from my peers and team leaders, but also a tinge of sadness seeing the reality of life in prison. I am part of the prison resettlement team. Here, we call prisoners ‘residents’, working together to fulfil their core and secondary needs. We signpost residents to different charities, agencies and governmental organisations and carry out regular follow-ups once they are engaging with these organisations.

During the induction training for my new job at a prison, I was told that no one is beyond help, that everyone can change, but that a person needs to make that switch themselves, No one else can do it for them. – it has to come from within. We can provide signposts for their potential successful resettlement, accommodation, therapy, etc. but it is they who can rehabilitate themselves by engaging with the support available and living a life with hope. 

"As they said in ancient times, ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ - ‘while I breathe, I hope!’"

Khulisa at its core endeavours to change the system by addressing the root causes of challenging behaviour. They believe in prevention rather than cure, in terms of preventing the circumstances that would leave a child in an emotionally or psychologically vulnerable situation from which they can come out defensive, hardened or prone to committing crime. Khulisa supports young people to increase their social and emotional wellbeing and to build resilience. I agree and support Khulisa’s core principle that no one is beyond help and that everyone can change and progress towards being a better version of themselves with the right support and guidance.

Khulisa provides services in three core areas: in schools, in prisons and in community organisations. In schools, young people are taught academic subjects, but there is also a need for them to develop social and emotional skills to  live a healthy and fulfilling life. Here they can learn about the concepts of ‘other than myself’, ‘cause and effect’ and ‘emotional triggers’ and how to develop alternative coping strategies.

Khulisa supports those  who may at times be labelled by society as either ‘troubled’ or ‘troublemakers’, by building emotional resilience through restorative mechanisms that support them to steer away from criminal and violent tendencies.

With organisations like Khulisa, I believe true rehabilitation and restoration of vulnerable people is possible. And no one is beyond hope. 

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