Using a mentoring and skills building approach, the Solas Project’s Prison and Probation Programme was established to help young offenders make a real and long-lasting change to their lives after release.
Ireland’s prisons face significant challenges in their efforts to rehabilitate the individuals incarcerated within them. As it stands over 70% of young offenders re-offend within three years of release. Systems for the rehabilitation of prisoners in detention and support services for those offenders on release remain under-developed and under-resourced. These factors can often contribute to young offenders becoming ensnared in a life of crime at a very early age with little effort made to assist these people in turning their lives around.
As a criminal defence solicitor and having volunteered with disadvantaged youth for many years, Graham had the opportunity to meet many young people caught up in crime. Recognising that these people had something more to offer society, Graham set about to fundamentally change how this group saw themselves. The Solas Project’s Prison and Probation Programme was established to help young offenders make a real and lasting change to their lives after release. The programme engages offenders between the ages of 17 and 23 while they are still in prison, using activities like tag rugby, music production and aquaponics to build lasting relationships with its participants. Solas Project then helps these individuals to compile a post release care plan focusing on their future aims, goals and concerns from educational to personal matters in a safe non-judgemental environment. Once released, Solas Project assists participants in the implementation of their plan.
Through mentoring and skills building, Solas Project helps participants to develop self-awareness and personal responsibility, dramatically reducing the likelihood of re-offending in the process. At a cost to the taxpayer of €65,000 per prisoner per year, even a small reduction in re-offending rates could have a massive impact. Helping participants with major challenges such as accommodation needs, job searches, family support and finances, Solas Project helps to relieve some of the pressures that can often overwhelm an individual reintegrating back into society. Having worked with over 40 prisoners to date Solas Project isn’t just reducing prison costs but it’s providing Ireland with role models, individuals who are breaking intergenerational cycles of offending.
The support, assistance and encouragement has been invaluable and has moved us way down the track, much quicker than we could have without.