“Switchback shows that if you really want to change lives, this is exactly the approach that makes sense” – Rory Stewart OBE MP, Prisons Minister
As part of Switchback’s 10-year celebrations we were delighted to host over 150 friends, partners, supporters and others from across the criminal justice sector at a special event at the Girdlers’ Hall last week.
At the event, Living Life Differently: Building a brighter future for prison leavers, Switchback shared insights from 10 years of supporting young men to change after prison and hosted a discussion about improving support through the gate.
Switchback launched a new report on the evening with our own ideas for change: More Human, More Effective is available to read here.
“The lesson from Switchback is that providing that trust, that human relationship is central for change.
“What is heroic about the work that Switchback does is its ability to change lives and to inspire us that it can be done.”
Rory Stewart OBE MP, Prisons Minister
For the panel discussion we were thrilled to be joined by the Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart, as well as Emily Thomas, Governor of HMP/YOI Isis, and Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust.
The people who really understand the impact of the criminal justice system are the people who have been through it. So we put control of the Q&A in the hands of three Switchback Trainees – Michael, Elton and James – who reflected on their experiences and quizzed the panel on how we can improve the prospects of people leaving prison.
“Switchback provide real hope for change and keeps itself very personal – it’s not about targets, it is genuinely about helping people, and for the young men I look after that is really important.”
Emily Thomas, Governor, HMP/YOI Isis
“If it wasn’t for Switchback I’d probably be back inside, eating off a greasy blue plate and sleeping with cockroaches.
“Growing up I never thought I’d ever have a job, but now I’m working as an exhibition host. My Switchback mentor is always pushing me because she believes in me.”
Elton, Switchback Trainee
“At the Prison Reform Trust we’re now spending a lot more time listening to people that have experience of the system.
“If you read what Switchback has produced, its wisdom is because they have spent the last ten years listening to people who actually know what the answers are.”
Peter Dawson, Director, Prison Reform Trust
The discussion was brought to a close with a powerful performance by poet Mr Gee and Switchback Trainee Kameran.
Kameran had never been on stage before, but performed his poem Taking the Long Way Around to a huge ovation from the audience, ending with:
“So what does Switchback mean to me? Personally, I view it as a key / Time lost in prison had a hold on me / And I’m still struggling to be free!”
The final part of the evening gave guests a chance to discuss issues further, speak with Switchback Trainees about their journeys and with Switchback staff about the support we provide.
In the coming months we will be doing more to share our evidence of what works, building on the conversations started at this event and working with others to create a more human, more effective criminal justice system. Get in touch to join us!
A huge thank you to the Girdlers’ Company for their wonderful venue and hospitality, to Wonder London, Mike Massarro photography, to everyone who attended, and especially to the Switchback Trainees for their contribution and continued dedication to living life differently.