SERIAL offenders are changing their lives with the help of a charity.
Sussex Pathways has taken on a Ministry of Justice contract to help the rehabilitation of offenders at Lewes prison.
Prisoners who opt into their program are matched with a volunteer mentor who offers advice and help on restarting their life.
Mark, from Chichester, was a repeat offender and finished a ten month sentence in December 2013 for car theft.
With the help of Sussex Pathways, he is getting his life back on track and has found a job working in security.
Mark said: “I’ve been in and out of prison since the age of 19, that’s nearly a life sentence. I’ve just turned 45 now and it’s time to grow up.
“I’ve worked with many agencies over the years but this has been a big difference and really turned things round, things are looking up for a change.”
He added: “The help is there and my advice is to grab it with both hands.”
Sussex Pathways has worked with nearly 200 prisoners in the past year with 60% having been repeat offenders.
The project has reduced re-offending in its mentees by 47%.
Mark’s mentor, Fleur, from Shoreham, was very proud when Mark started work in security at an events company.
She said: “I really enjoy it and I’ve found it particularly rewarding, our meetings have come a long way from six months ago when Mark was in a prison tracksuit.
“It’s not just good for the mentee, it’s good for personal development as well.”
The mentors help with numerous aspects of the mentee’s new life, including securing accommodation and helping them to find a job.
Offenders are matched with a volunteer while in prison and meetings begin six to eight weeks before their release.
Mark also does work with Sussex Pathways, giving their new volunteers advice on what he needed and wanted from them as a prisoner.
Half of offenders mentored by Sussex Pathways are met at the prison gates by their mentor.
Adrian Martin, director of Sussex Pathways, said: “Having a mentor from Pathways to meet them at the gate makes a big difference and puts them on the right track.”
“We’re not going to turn things round on a sixpence, but even if we’re delaying re-offending by a few months we’re making a difference.”
For more information about becoming a mentor, visit www.sussexpathways.org.uk/beco me-a-mentor/