For most prisoners who have spent a considerable time in detention, the transition back to society after release can be a difficult process. For those suffering from mental health problems, it can be even worse. In many cases, where little support is offered, ex-prisoners can go on to reoffend.

However, a new resettlement project aims to support ex-prisoners after their release, helping them to access medical and other specialist care, and rebuild their lives, as the Guardian reports.

Martin Brooks was frequently in and out of prison. Little support was offered to him after each release, and as an alcoholic with multiple mental health issues, he was unable to find accommodation or specialist treatment. He frequently re-offended because the outside world was even harder to handle than prison.

Fortunately for Martin, a new partnership between social justice charity Nacro and Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust assigned him a resettlement broker shortly before his release. With this support, Martin was able to access supported housing and enter a detox programme. He has had the opportunity to pursue art and is determined to get his life back on track.

The project began in April 2015, with a focus on prisoners with acute mental health needs. Nacro works with prisoners for 12 weeks before their release and up to 12 weeks afterwards, to make the integration back into the community as easy as possible. The vast majority of these prisoners were supported into accommodation, registered with a GP, and received benefits, and two-thirds did not re-offend. 

Many people supported by Prisoners Abroad face difficulty in returning to the community after their release. Those who have been incarcerated abroad often face unique challenges, alongside those experienced by UK prisoners. Many ex-prisoners have endured appalling prison conditions abroad, and require specialist support for their trauma. Many have been away from the UK for decades, and have no family or friends to help them re-adjust to life in Britain. For those with no knowledge of the welfare system or address to return to, money, shelter and healthcare can be difficult to access.

Our Resettlement Team work one-on-one with returnees to guide them through the transition. At any one time, Prisoners Abroad is supporting 100 ex-prisoners through this difficult process. We help them gain accommodation, food and medical care, and for those who disclose mental health or substance abuse problems, we can refer them to specialist services. We advise ex-prisoners through the benefits process and provide training and confidence-building to support people back into employment. You can read more about the work we do with returnees here.

The London Homelessness Awards have recently recognised the achievements of our dedicated Resettlement Team, who have made it to the final of this year’s awards! Prisoners Abroad is one of three shortlisted charities, each guaranteed to win a share of £60,000 in appreciation of their work.

Aside from Prisoners Abroad’s Resettlement Service, the two remaining projects shortlisted are Network Homes & New Horizon Youth Centre and Southwark Council’s Homelessness Trailblazer Pilot. The winner will be revealed on October 18th at a ceremony held at City Hall, with Deputy Mayor James Murray set to award the prizes.

Read more about the London Homelessness Awards here.