Switchback’s training for prison officers on the Realities of Release

By March 11, 2020No Comments

Switchback is doing more every year to grow our impact by influencing positive change in policy and practice across the justice system. This now includes bespoke training for prison and probation professionals in Switchback’s methods. Here we describe our latest session in partnership with Unlocked Graduates. . .

We know from our intensive support for young prison-leavers that in the run up to release people are often given confusing or misleading messages about what to expect and the support that will be available on the outside. The true reality of release – that change will likely be a long road with many bumps – is often not well communicated or understood. Our Trainees often tell us that support on the outside is promised by staff but not followed through afterwards, breeding mistrust and resentment.

Switchback Mentors work hard to counteract this by always being honest and realistic about the challenges of living life differently after prison, encouraging Trainees to avoid quick-fix solutions and always doing what we say we’re going to do. We know that telling the truth and demonstrating reliability builds trust, and people are often relieved that someone is finally being up front with them – even if it’s bad news. This approach ensures that people are better prepared for the ups and downs of trying to make a huge change after release, and therefore more likely to build a stable, rewarding life for the long term.

Authenticity is a core Switchback value and we were delighted to be asked by Unlocked Graduates, the leadership programme for new prison officers, to run a training session for a group of Mentoring Prison Officers (MPOs) around putting this value into practice in a prison environment. Those MPOs will now deliver this training to over 90 prison officers across 17 prisons working with Unlocked Grads, improving relationships and propsects for prison-leavers across the country.

The training was designed and delivered by our expert Switchback Mentors and two former Switchback Trainees and members of our Experts by Experience Board, Brian and Ken. Centred on the theme of Realities of Release, the training covered tools to promote realistic expectations of release, preparing practically for life on the outside, maintaining healthy boundaries and building positive, motivational relationships to support change.

The feedback we received from the participants showed the power of this collaborative approach drawing on both the learned and lived experience of Switchback staff and Experts by Experience. 100% of participants thought the training was enhanced by hearing first-hand from Switchback Trainees.

“The training really helped to reflect on our work and practices and give us a deeper insight into our clients’ life and issues”

“More of this kind of training would help me to support and encourage the clients that I work with and help to give them a positive outlook on life after prison.”

“I think this should be included in initial training for all new Prison Officers as well as existing staff”

–  Prison Officers taking part in the training

We’re very encouraged to see a growing appetite from within the justice system to learn from Switchback’s approach, build better relationships and improve people’s readiness for release, with Unlocked Grads doing great work to drive this shift forward in prisons.

Over the past 18 months in response to this demand, Switchback has delivered training to over 70 prison, probation and voluntary sector practitioners. We are looking forward to expanding this area of work in the coming months so that together we can build a more human, more effective justice system.

If you are interested in Switchback’s training for your organisation please get in touch by emailing

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