Chapelfield Shopping Centre in Norwich wins awards for helping prisoners rebuild their lives

Norwich's Chapelfield shopping centre has received a coveted national award for helping serving prisoners get their lives back on track.

It has joined an exclusive group of businesses to receive Business in the Community's (BITC) National Big Tick, for its Custody and Community project (CCC).

Launched in June 2009, the Chapelfield Custody and Community Project is a partnership with HMP Norwich and City College Norwich.

It aims to break the cycle of reoffending by providing serving prisoners with practical work experience and training, then helping them to find jobs.

The Big Tick award is only available to entrants of the national Awards for Excellence, recognising inspirational programmes that make a positive impact on the community, the environment or wider society.

Chapelfield qualifies for this because its CCC programme has seen 83pc of the 64 serving prisoners they have helped go on to secure a permanent job, compared to fewer than 26pc of prisoners leaving prison with a job nationally.

Will Styles, governor of HMP Norwich, said: 'The Chapelfield Custody and Community Project is the most courageous, innovative and inspiring resettlement project I have seen.

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'It is a very important part of the Norwich Prison Resettlement strategy and has already helped many offenders to change their lives for the better.

'This will help them to be equipped and motivated to live law-abiding lives in the future and make our communities safer places.'

The CCC Project has also been shortlisted for the Example of Excellence Award – the overall winner for the 'Work Inclusion' category.

The Chapelfield team presented its entry to a panel of expert judges last month and the final results will be announced at a gala event which takes place at London's Royal Albert Hall on July 5.

Davina Tanner, general manager of Chapelfield Shopping Centre devised the project.

'Winning a BITC Big Tick is an incredible honour and we are thrilled that the CCC Project has been recognised in this way,' she said. 'Our aim with this project is to make a difference: not just to individual prisoners but to our employees, customers and the wider community we're part of.

'To reduce the negative impact of crime on our society, it is essential to make every effort to prevent people from re-offending and that means helping them to find jobs.

'Without work, many people who are released from prison feel they literally have no alternative but to turn back to crime.

'As a regional shopping centre, it is exciting to be competing for the national Work Inclusion Example of Excellence Award with national organisations Balfour Beatty Group and Lend Lease: both acknowledged leaders in sustainable working practices.'

Chapelfield will be presented with its Big Tick award at the BITC East of England Awards tomorrow, when it will also find out if it has won the BITC East of England Community Impact Award for its wider work with young people in the Norfolk community.

Stephen Howard, chief executive of BITC, added: 'I congratulate Chapelfield on achieving their Big Tick. It is a challenging time for business, but this is a sign that companies are not losing their focus and are transforming their businesses to make a positive impact on people and society and are prepared to lead by example.

'That's what Business in the Community's Awards for Excellence are all about – celebrating responsible business, the leadership that makes it happen and the benefits to the business and society of doing so.

'Communities and consumers need to see that businesses are pro-active, visible and engaged on the big issues of the day, as Chapelfield has demonstrated.'

Have you been nominated for an award? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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