A community centre in Leeds is giving fresh hope to prisoners through a project offering support once they are released.
Representatives from the New Wortley Offender Support Team are there each step of the way, from meeting the men at the gates of HMP Leeds to helping them find accommodation.
They also offer the chance to learn new skills through volunteering opportunities at New Wortley Community Centre, which acts as the project’s base.
Ian Liversidge, 49, has started volunteering following his release from prison last month.
“Normally you come out and you’re back into the same routine. If you’ve got no money, you’re going back to go back into crime,” he said.
“With this, you’ve got something to look forward to and you get satisfaction out of it. It’s opened my eyes.”
It’s a motivation to other lads when they see people change.Ken Denton, project manager
Ian has been helping prepare meals for the weekly lunch club and the walking group, and working with the nearby charity shop too.
Project manager Ken Denton knows just what a difference this kind of support can make, having been in the very same position last summer.
He said: “When I got released, I came down and started volunteering here. I was made to feel really welcome.
“I had an idea of how a ‘through the gate’ project should work.”
With the support of the centre and Catch22 resettlement team, the project became a reality in April.
Funding from Leeds City Council soon followed and Ken is now employed as project manager.
Around 25 former prisoners have been helped to date, with re-offending rates estimated at just five per cent.
Ken said: “People haven’t given them a cat in hell’s chance. They’ve come out of prison, no hope, they can’t see a day in front of them.
“They’re coming through here, gaining new life skills. It’s a motivation to other lads when they see people change.”