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Football project aims to reduce reoffending

An innovative programme which uses the power of football to help prevent reoffending by prisoners has been delivered in HMP Exeter.

Staff from Exeter City Community Trust, the partner charity of Exeter City Football Club, have been delivering training and ‘through the gate’ support to prisoners as part of the Twinning Project, the official umbrella for all collaborative projects between football and HM Prison & Probation Service.

And to mark the end of the six-week course for the latest cohort, Exeter City first team player Sonny Cox visited the prison this week where he presented the participants with certificates of achievement, alongside Governor Richard Luscombe and Deputy Governor Andrew Tanner.

As well as training and development whilst the prisoners are in HMP Exeter, Exeter City Community Trust supports them with ‘living on the outside’, offering one-to-one help and advice around housing management, employability and financial aid. To date, more than 60 prisoners have benefited from taking part in the Twinning Project in HMP Exeter. 

Scott Walker, head of participation at Exeter City Community Trust, said the participants responded well to the mix of activity and learning the programme offers. “Sport and education have the power to transform lives, and we are pleased to have played a role in supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners into society.

“The programme enables participants to build self-confidence and knowledge, as well as practical skills for once they are released from prison. Aspects of the course also include guidance on how to communicate with people and engage with others in a positive way. All those who complete the course can build on it in the future.”

He added: “We are awaiting confirmation of funding, but we hope to deliver the programme to a further three groups this year.”

A total of 12 prisoners took part in the most recent programme, two left the prison and the remaining 10 who completed it between October and December last year received an accredited Developing Leadership Through Football Award from the FA.

Wayne, who took part in the most recent programme, said: “The Twinning Project has been amazing, it has helped me with my state of mind, my confidence and grown me a friendship circle of inmates and a select few officers.

“In the first session we were given full kit which was great. It made us feel as one and part of the team. They are good people; it’s an excellent charity and it has been a pleasure learning alongside them.”

Mike Reece, physical education instructor at HMP Exeter, said: “We’re very grateful to Exeter City Community Trust who have been delivering this programme with great skill and enthusiasm. It’s been rewarding to see the impact on the group who took part in the sessions. It really does show the power of football and, importantly, Exeter City, to help engage people. Our partnership with the club continues to grow and develop and we’re looking forward to continuing to work together in the future.”

Launched in October 2018, the Twinning Project aims to bring together professional football clubs and prisons across the UK to use football as a catalyst for change. Through the programme, real opportunities are provided to better prepare prisoners for release, find employment and reduce re-offending which is a huge cost to the country and local communities.