HMP Norwich has the Manpower to help your organisation

Charities, community groups and not-for-profit organisations are being urged to take advantage of an innovative scheme that uses the 'Manpower' of serving prisoners at HMP Norwich.

The Chapelfield Custody and Community Manpower project organises for a group of prisoners to spend time in the community, helping with practical jobs such as gardening, decorating or other manual tasks.

The initiative is an off-shoot of the award-winning Chapelfield Custody and Community Project (CCC), launched in June 2009, and is in partnership with HMP Norwich and City College Norwich.

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

Recent figures from the Ministry of Justice state that, nationally, less than 26pc of prisoners leave prison with a job. But of the 54 serving prisoners who have successfully completed the CCC programme, Chapelfield has helped to secure jobs for 80pc of them.

Davina Tanner is the general manager of Chapelfield Shopping Centre and devised the Custody and Community Project. She said: 'Supporting offenders to find jobs and break the cycle of crime is an incredibly important part of Chapelfield's corporate social responsibility work and I am I'm very pleased and proud of what we have achieved so far.

'We need 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.'

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Each Manpower project allows for up to eight prisoners to spend one or two days on site. Chapelfield funds transport for the prisoners as well as contributing to costs up to the value of �200 per project.

A pilot Manpower project ran in February, when eight serving prisoners helped strip out and decorate a warehouse in Dereham for The Benjamin Foundation charity; preparing it to become the Restore retail outlet which sells donated used furniture to raise funds for the charity.

Richard Draper, founder of The Benjamin Foundation, said of the prisoners' help: 'Having the extra manpower was such a bonus, it helped us bring the opening of Restore Dereham forward so we could start appealing for stock sooner.

'The guys worked really hard and did a great job. We're very grateful to them.'

Dave Damerell is employability officer at HMP Norwich and accompanies prisoners when they undertake projects in the community.

He reassures any worries that people may have about using the system, saying that all prisoners used are trusted and have been through a 'rigorous assessment'.

He adds: 'We would never take serving prisoners out into the community without being very sure that they posed no risk to the general public.'

If you would like to get involved with the initiative then write to: Davina Tanner, Chapelfield Management Offices, 40-46 St Stephens Street, Norwich, NR1 3SH or email davina-tanner@capshop.co.uk

Have you got a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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