HMP Lowdham Grange and Step Out Stay Out launch ‘Resettlement Pathway’

An innovative new partnership between HMP Lowdham Grange and Pete Bell’s ‘Step Out Stay Out’ football-based rehabilitation programme and looks set to benefit prison leavers and the deprived community of Clifton in Nottingham.

The Step Out Stay Out Resettlement Pathway, based at the Clifton Football Centre in the heart of Europe’s second-biggest housing estate, will offer people released from HMP Lowdham Grange opportunities in many areas. These include specially-tailored courses to train them up as football coaches, as well as potential routes into training and employment.

The benefits of the partnership work in the opposite direction too: prison residents will share their powerful, cautionary stories via live Zoom calls to youngsters from the estate in schools and PRUs who may be at-risk of becoming involved in crime, gangs, violence, drugs or alcohol.

Pete will start the process with fortnightly visits to the prison to form relationships with people who are due for release. He tells them his own powerful story of incarceration, loss and redemption through football and talks with them individually about the impact of their offending.

After building up trust (a process helped by Pete’s relatability as an ex-prison resident himself) he hopes to then engage them in the opportunities on offer in Clifton post-release, which will help their successful re-integration into society and increase their chances of a positive future and desistance from crime.

The Clifton Football Centre has a gym, astro and grass pitches, changing rooms and classrooms. It is attached to Clifton FC, a venerable amateur club that produced the likes of former Premier League stars Jermaine Jenas and Darren Huckerby.

It’s in the classrooms that Step Out Stay Out (SOSO) will be based, offering accredited qualifications such as the 1st4Sport Activator course or a community version of the specially adapted and approved FA Level 1 course Pete has delivered in prisons.

Clifton FC’s chairman, Rich Hipkiss, wants to add 20 more teams in the next three years and it’s hoped that some of the prison leavers who engage in the SOSO Resettlement Pathway will become future coaches and volunteers with those new teams and potentially work on Pete’s local ‘Jumpers 4 Goalposts’ initiative. Pete is also working on linking up with potential employers including the developers of an £800m housing estate next door to the Clifton Football Centre.

“Overall, the programme just prompts people in the jail to think about where they’re headed in life,” said Pete. “It’s an holistic approach to improving the community and society as a whole.

“My SOSO work over the last few years has proved that my story and giving people opportunities to better themselves can be the catalyst for people to change their ways. Now we’re doubling the challenge by working with people coming out, and stopping people going in, and linking up the two aims.

“I’ve lived on this estate for 50-odd years and the levels of knife crime make me think I just don’t know this place any more. There are some great people on this estate, but it’s changing. We’ve got to do things like this to keep a lid on it. If these guys sitting in jail can help keep young people out of jail, and make them see the wider consequences of their action, that’s a massively positive outcome.”

Mark Hanson, Serco’s Prison Director for HMP Lowdham Grange, commented: “Engaging with this project will help prisoners to positively contribute to the community crime reduction and diversion agendas. It will enable them to put something back into the community, thus assisting in their rehabilitation journey.

“Sport and Community involvement is a key element, along with family ties, that will enable prisoners to gain and maintain social capital, which is essential in thinking positively about their futures. We have seen a number of examples of released prisoners turning their lives around using sport as the vehicle for their personal change journey.

“This project will deliver a valuable connection to the community and will benefit prisoners, allowing them to put something back into the community and assist the community-based participants of this project, firstly from within the prison on video link, then in the community in person.”

Mark added: “I have found Pete’s work invaluable at HMP Lowdham Grange. The fact that he has lived experience of custody, added to the credibility that he commands from the prisoners, makes his contribution both powerful and valuable. Pete is held in high regard by all within the prison and the Step Out Stay Out community project will add a restorative dimension to his contribution, where those who have committed crimes against the community have the chance to put something back.”

Darren Davis, Serco’s Sport and Leisure Tutor at HMP Lowdham Grange, said: “Sport and community-prison partnerships can play a massive part in rehabilitation and re-offending by delivering programmes that can provide education, employment and training. For many, they have craved having a positive role model in their life. Mentors like Pete can gain trust and build relationships which in turn leads to empowerment and better life choices, thus
making a more positive contribution to society.

“Pete is so passionate about the work he does within prisons. I am fortunate to have witnessed it first-hand at HMP Lowdham Grange, how professionally he delivers his courses and how his story resonates with offender learners.

“Pete understands the journey they are on and he uses the power of sport as a hook to enable change. Football has had such a huge influence on him, it has probably saved his life, and he believes it can do the same for other offenders too.”

James Mapstone, Chief Executive of the Alliance of Sport, said: “We know from our extensive research that robust collaborations between custodial and community partners, when combined with the power of sport, can be a potent force in preventing re-offending and turning lives around. This project is a shining example and we look forward to
supporting it and seeing its positive outcomes.”