Double Lockdown

The hidden group facing a double lockdown

Paula Harriott is an integral member of the Double Lockdown Programme design group. Here she shines a light on the reality facing people experiencing the criminal justice system, and the lived experience leaders working tirelessly to support them.

As Autumn 2020 progresses, the social sector is forced to face the ongoing uncertainties and complexities of a second wave of the pandemic. As we move out of universal lockdown, we grapple with the possibilities of more, and the devastating impact this is having on vulnerable and marginalised communities. But there is one hidden group of society experiencing the effects of a double lockdown, which requires urgent and sustained attention and support.

Just like any community, prisoners and people leaving prisons, including children and young people, and their families, are anxious about Covid-19, but feel forgotten by the general public as they endure the harshest of lockdowns. A lockdown which has left many confined to a cell for up to 23 hours a day since March 2020, with little contact with other human beings.

A lockdown which has left many confined to a cell for up to 23 hours a day since March 2020, with little contact with other human beings.

Social leaders supporting prisoners and those leaving prisons are witnessing a major disruption to the criminal justice regime. Prisons have ceased crucial rehabilitation activities and interventions. There is major disruption to work activities, rehabilitative programmes and education, and a consequent disruption to preparation for parole and progression. Vital visits with loved ones have been stopped for months and are now re-starting, with social distancing, and no physical contact. With a second wave emerging this may all cease once again.

Likewise, people on probation are having to contend with online appointments and accessing services which are no longer face to face - conditions negatively impacting the delivery of the intense support required for the benefit of communities. The impending renationalisation of the probation service creates new challenges of potential disruption to an already strained service and many across the Criminal Justice sector have growing concerns over the dismantling of the Community Rehabilitation Companies.

Lived experience leaders working across the Criminal Justice Sector have been challenged as never before.

Lived experience leaders working across the Criminal Justice Sector have been challenged as never before as they navigate a complex and ever-evolving terrain. Many continue to work tirelessly on emergency responses, while others move towards thinking about recovery, renewal or building back better in a post-Covid world. We know that economic hardship and other social inequalities are on the way, while pre-existing inequities are on the rise, including racial injustice.

There is no doubt about the need for this programme, and the commitment of the LEx Leaders Movement at the Centre for Knowledge Equity and Clore Social teams to deliver. Coronavirus should not deter us from service at this crucial time and we must play our part to strengthen a sector that is having to do its utmost to serve some of the most marginalised people in our country.

We must play our part to strengthen a sector that is having to do its utmost to serve some of the most marginalised people in our country.

We therefore plan to respond quickly to design and deliver a programme which equips lived experience leaders with some of the skills, resilience and confidence that they need to rise to the challenges ahead. Essentially, the programme will build skills and leadership behaviours in the sector and ensure that lived experience leaders are better able to support and manage themselves, their people, organisations, and communities.

The leadership landscape of the Criminal Justice System is varied and diverse covering the voluntary, charity, public and private sectors – also spanning the intersection of multiple and complex injustices and disadvantage including homelessness; recovery and addiction; mental health; gender, racial injustice and/or economic injustice and poverty.

As part of that landscape there is a vibrant and growing community of Lived Experience Leaders (LEx leaders). People with direct, first-hand experience of the Criminal Justice System who are activating their lived experiences, in combination with their learned and practice experiences, to improve the lives of the communities they share experiences with. However, often LEx leaders have little, if any, support to develop their leadership skills in a strained and overstretched sector.

This programme creates the space to meet all these ambitions.

As a senior Lived experience leader in the criminal justice sector I see every day the undeniable contribution that those with lived experience make. I also witness the challenges we face as we seek to redefine the challenges and offer solutions; often reduced to labels that keep us within a ‘service user’ model, anonymous participants in research or depicted as too passionate or partisan.

Leadership, collaboration, and collective action are critical components of the change we seek. This programme creates the space to meet all these ambitions, building leadership, bringing people together and building the foundations of collective vision and action. I am delighted to be part of this initiative and salute the efforts of our allies at the Centre for Knowledge Equity and their partners Clore Social in supporting us to bring this about.

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