On May 21st, RAPt hosted an Open Day at HMP Everthorpe (near Brough, East Yorkshire). For the attending guests it was a chance to find out, first hand, about RAPt’s drug and alcohol programmes at the Prison. In addition, it was an opportunity to celebrate with 9 men who were ‘graduating’ from Bridge, a six week abstinence based drug treatment programme, delivered by RAPt at the Prison.
As with all RAPt’s graduation ceremonies, each person who successfully completes the treatment is invited to say a few words. Standing up in front of a room full of strangers and sharing some of your most painful experiences and vulnerabilities is daunting for any of us. Imagine being a prisoner speaking in front of a suited and booted audience of over 30 people – some of them senior stakeholders and commissioners in the criminal justice system. And yet, all but one of the men stepped up, despite some of them being clearly apprehensive. They spoke about the changes they hoped to be able to make in their lives now they were in recovery from drug addiction and their gratitude – to the staff, to the Peer Supporters and to each other.
“I’ve been in and out of prison for 27 years, and because of RAPt I’m not an addict anymore; I’m a former addict. I’m not alone anymore.”
Claire Wild, RAPt’s Fundraising and Communications Manager, attended the day and spoke about the graduation. “It was extraordinarily moving to hear each of the men speak with such honesty and integrity. It takes such courage to expose your emotions to people you’ve never met, particularly when you consider the circumstances – inside a prison – where admitting to being vulnerable might leave you open to ridicule.”
Dougie Dunsmore-Dawson, RAPt’s Regional Manager for Yorkshire and Pauline Murphy (Programme Manager) were also impressed by the courage of the graduates. “It was a deeply honouring experience” said Dougie. “Literally seven or eight weeks ago these men had no idea about recovery, and now here they were getting into dialogue with some pretty high-profile people about the importance of this kind of support, and the need for programmes that continue in the community. A highlight for me was when everybody spontaneously cheered them afterwards.”
An inspiring moment for everyone was hearing Andy, a RAPt graduate, talk about his life since completing the programme and since attending The Bridges, RAPt’s community rehab in Hull.
Andy used to volunteer for RAPt and now lives and works locally, giving his time supporting them whenever he can. “RAPt provided a safe container for me to explore myself. When my mother and my father died in the later stages of my recovery I was able to say goodbye, and to deal with this life event and loss. I got ongoing support from the staff at The Bridges, and they’re still there for me today. I haven’t used drugs now for nine years.”
Andy went on to describe how difficult it can be making the transition from prison to life in the community: “The Bridges was pivotal to my recovery. If I had gone and done the same things I always did, I would have ended up in the same situation – either back in prison or worse. And that scared me. So I made a choice to live differently. I had to lose the obsession to use and find a new way of life”.
Speaking after the event Dougie said: “I know he won’t mind me saying this, but when he was at Everthorpe, Andy was crazy. By his own admission, without the support he got from The Bridges, he would have crashed and burned”.
The day was made possible by the willingness and support of Ed Cornmell, Everthorpe’s Governor, and his staff, who permitted the men to participate, despite considerable disruption to the well-organised prison schedule. We’re very grateful to them all for making it possible.