Since 2012, We Are Survivors has provided various support services and offers in the prison estate, from a version of our Safe Room facilitated monthly and weekly, to art therapy groups and 1:1 trauma-informed therapy, similar to what we offer in the community.
Whilst there is very little psychological research about survivors in prison, every time we start a service in an establishment, we are swamped with referrals and a sigh of relief from Prison Officers, Offender Managers, Safer Custody Managers, Psychologists and Mental Health teams.
One of therapists working in prison wrote:
“Sometimes people’s trauma can lead them to prison, due to engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviours in the community. Whilst prison is a threat to most people, for others they seek out prison as a place of safety. In my experience, a lot of the prisoners I have worked with have had chaotic, dysfunctional and/or traumatic childhoods that depicts more of a war zone than a nurturing space for child development. Whilst we often don’t want to admit this, for some, the prison setting might be the first place they feel safe as it’s a closed, regulated, reliable and a consistent environment where they are not likely to be around the same triggers that they might have in the community.
Being in a prison environment might give a sense of safety but this can also change the way they deal with the trauma, for example, in the community they may engage in different coping strategies to take them away from their trauma, such as; over working, excessive gym going, sex, gambling, use of drugs and/or alcohol, binge eating or controlling their diet amongst other self-harm behaviours. Some of these coping strategies are taken away from them in prison and so people may find new ones such as self harm, suicidal ideation or deploy the community based strategies more intensely such as illicit drug use or aggressive behaviour.”
Our OUT Spoken Talking Therapy Service has been developed to support serving prisoners across the North West prison estate with a safe space to be able to address often difficult issues and past trauma. We aim to help individuals to better understand the impact of ‘unprocessed trauma’, maladaptive coping mechanisms, and often connections to their offending behaviour, all to support the rehabilitative culture.
The service, commissioned by NHS England and supported by HMPPS, is available across the North West Prison estate we are proud to be supported by Greater Manchester Rape Crisis and The Birchall Trust in the delivery of these services in the following establishments: