Award for city charity working to improve prisoners’ mental health

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:17 14 September 2020

Simon Thomas at the Norfolk Sports Awards 2016. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Simon Thomas at the Norfolk Sports Awards 2016. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Archant Norfolk 2016

A Norwich-based charity which helps prisoners improve their mental health by remaining in touch with loved ones has won a national award.

Prison Voicemail founders Alex Redston (right) and Kieron Ball. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYPrison Voicemail founders Alex Redston (right) and Kieron Ball. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Prison Voicemail is a social venture with a mission to improve communication channels between people in prison and their family and friends, with the aim of relieving some of the causes of stress and isolation that ultimately increase the risk of self-harm and reoffending.

The charity, which was founded in 2015, scooped the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Criminal Justice Award 2020 which was presented by former Blue Peter and Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas.

The CSJ Awards, sponsored by The Telegraph, were digitalised for 2020 and consist of a series of short films, broadcast through the CSJ think tank social media platforms and posted on a dedicated awards website.

Prison Voicemail aims to make it easier for people in prison to maintain positive relationships with their families during what is a stressful time.

These relationships give prisoners a much-needed support network, reducing the burden on prison staff.

Figures show that 46 per cent of prisoners lose touch with their families while inside, increasing the incidence of self-harm, suicides, and re-offending.

To undo this worrying trend, the charity’s services are now available in over 85 per cent of prisons in England and Wales, and have helped over 10,000 families to stay connected during difficult times.

In July 2016, the service was mandated for national rollout across the HM Prison Service by the then Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous.

As one of six winners, Prison Voicemail will receive a £10,000 grant and has been profiled in front of hundreds of leading figures from across the country.

In addition to Simon Thomas other celebrities including Bear Grylls, and television personalities Rachel Riley and Cathy Newman supported the awards as well as sporting stars Chris Smalling and Courtney Lawes.

Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said: “The CSJ thanks all those charities who, like Prison Voicemail, provide key services to Britain’s most vulnerable.”

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