On this day…………
On this day (17th December 1939) during the Battle of River Plate near Montevideo, Uruguay, the British trapped the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. German Captain Langsdorf sank his ship believing that resistance was hopeless.
Jim and Jethro’s Xmas bash held at the Dorchester, London earlier in the week was a spectacular success. Our friends and benefactors once again gave generously and simply put without there faithful support our existence would be impoverished. The Inuit of North Canada have over 100 words for snow, I wish there were that many for “thank you” as I would use each and every one of them in this log. So, thank you for supplying the funds that we need to make a difference in the lives of veterans and families involved in the criminal justice system.
Tom – A Veteran’s Story………….
Tom is a single man although he has had a number of partners. Sustaining relationships is difficult and he has limited emotional expression. He has a tendency not to trust anyone having been betrayed on numerous occasions throughout his life. He is Father to a number of children with several partners. Tom maintains limited contact his children, and visits his ageing parents on a regular and frequent basis.
He became involved with the English Defence League several years ago feeling it was a worthwhile pursuit. He attributed the final “trigger” to be the untimely death of a fusilier in Woolwich where Tom undertook his basic training. Coupled with his acknowledged poor transition I suspect this may have been prompted by seeking a reaffirmation of his former self i.e. Identity, meaning, control and belonging. Unfortunately, this decision was to prove detrimental for obvious reasons. Problems escalated, and he eventually became involved with the criminal justice system. This resulted in several short -term prison sentences culminating in a 15 -month sentence in 2014.
I first met Tom in early 2015 whilst he was in prison when he agreed to participate in Project Phoenix (PP) – a mentorship programme for former service personnel commencing in the final 15 -months of sentencing and continuing for a period of no than 12 -months following release. He was released in September (2015) and returned to his own home.
His mentor has maintained contact on a weekly basis for the past 2 years>.
Since leaving prison he has acquired his driving licence, and has been trained in basic life support. More recent achievements have included completion of mentorship training (validated by HMPPS) and he spoke at the inaugural Care after Combat Mentorship Conference in March 2017. He continues to be a keen conservationist and remains passionate about animal welfare.
He has been in continuous employment following release with on employer. Tom is known to be dependable, motivated and is an exemplary time -keeper. Event managers are entirely happy for him to be part of their team, describing him as being polite and courteous and someone who takes pride in their appearance.
He has recently become involved in another relationship. He has not reoffended which is not only significant but a remarkable achievement on his part. Without any fuss, Tom has invested considerable time and effort towards his rehabilitation and should be justifiably proud of his overall achievements.
Tom had two outstanding historical offences to answer following release. Together they would attract a mandatory 5- year custodial sentence although the presiding judge can exercise discretion in some instances. There have been several court appearances (he was found guilty on both charges) culminating in a final appearance last week for sentencing. As result, the past 16 -months have clearly proved challenging but he has manged to overcome numerous hurdles and setbacks which is much to his credit. He is a humble individual and has, to some extent undergone a transformation.
I/we believe he has the ability to build upon these initial successes with continuing support and guidance.
I am pleased to report Tom was sentenced to a 2 -year custodial sentence suspended for two years.
He is returning to work on Monday and getting on with his life. Sending him back to prison would, I believe, have served no useful purpose whatsoever and arguably would have possibly resulted in a return to his previous offending behaviour.
What we have Learned………
For Tom, the mentoring role has clearly been of significant value. Throughout, contact has been maintained on a weekly basis either by telephone or a face to face meeting.
Mentoring is a voluntary relationship of engagement, encouragement and trust. Its immediate priority is to offer support, guidance and practical assistance to veterans in the vulnerable period around their release. Its longer- term purpose is to help veterans find a stable lifestyle in which accommodation, employment, ties with family and friends, and a growing two-way relationship with the mentor all play their part in preventing a return to re-offending
Mentoring is not a compulsory relationship; it is not official supervision; it is not probation; it is not an isolated relationship because the mentor needs to work in cooperation with other sources of holistic help for veterans, such as housing authorities, Jobcentre Plus officials, employers and the NHS.
Almost all veterans agreed that a mentoring relationship will have the best chance of success if the mentor can understand the needs and mindset of the offender before his release.
Mentoring should begin at the earliest possible moment in the journey of a veteran/offender. For best practice this should mean starting the mentoring relationship when the veteran is still in prison and not ‘at the gate’, which can be a disorientating time for meeting a stranger. The mentoring should continue for a mutually agreed period (probably between six and up to 15 -months) after the veteran’s release into the community.
It cannot be too strongly emphasised that a mentoring relationship is intensely personal. One size is never going to fit all. Flexibility is an essential ingredient in the process.
I have read numerous research papers describing mentors who elicit the best out of their mentees are often warm characterful individuals who sometimes follow unorthodox paths in helping offenders on their journey to a rehabilitated life. These human instincts are important. It is an instinctive judgement to volunteer to become a mentor or to enrol as a professional one.
Empathising with a veteran offender enough to change the pattern of his life needs feelings from the heart as well as rules from a handbook. Mentoring is not a box-ticking exercise. It is a human engagement of trust, encouragement, guidance and hope. Yet for all the humanity and unorthodoxy that can help to build a good mentoring relationship, the process also requires dedication and discipline.
We presently have 311 veterans assigned to Project Phoenix – number one remains as important as number 311.
Our work is never done.
Live long and prosper