It’s not systems, processes or procedures that change people. It is not even programmes or courses. In my view it is people that change people and this is done by creating human to human relationships.
You will know this, think about those in your life that have impacted you and were instrumental in who you are now. Some of these people may have only entered your life for a moment and gave you a nugget of information that stopped you in your tracks. Everyone you meet in life you will learn something from. Those we meet every day are our true teachers.
I was once told that there are 3 types of relationships. These can be personal, professional or intimate. They are one of these:
I believe that everyone appears for a reason, nothing happens by chance. When we meet someone, our responsibility is to understand the purpose. We can be either the pupil or the teacher. The learning can be many things, as you may even think "I would not want to act in that way or be like that".
Let me now talk about Prison and Probation. In my day job I deliver talks and workshops on how to break down the 'them and us' narrative. People in prison and probation and staff adhere to an identity. It is this identity (in my view) that gets in the way of creating a supportive relationship.
The identities we create are not always the real us. They are what you present when you turn up to whatever environment you live or work within. Let me use prison as an example:
When a prison officer wakes up in the morning they wake up as a human being. They then put on their uniform, they walk through the gate, collect their keys and become a prison officer. When a person in prison wakes up in the morning they wake up as a human being. They then put on their sentence, their file and identity. The door opens and the two shall meet.
As you can see both staff and client have completely different identities linked to life experiences but what they do have in common is being human beings. The way to support change is for both professional and client to connect as human beings.
This has to be a mutual agreement and in my view it is the professional that has to make the first step in developing the relationship. Why you may ask? Well, simple - you are a professional and your job is to support rehabilitation, and the first step is to truly understand the person behind the file. We are all more than the worst thing we have ever done.
I know this works as I have been both the client and the professional. I was bought up in care. I first went to court at 11 years of age. I received my first sentence at 14. I spent a total of 8 years behind the door. I was a dependent heroin user and I trusted no one.
What I know today is that it was not the system that rehabilitated me. It was individuals that worked within it. This included prison officers, therapists, probation officers, support workers.
I could tell you so many stories about the way they helped me. Within all these stories there is a silver lining. They all treated me as a human being and showed me love, care and kindness, no matter how hard I tried to push them away… they never gave up on me.
Together we can truly make a difference when we move past identity and connect with humanity.