Recycling Lives, a social business which enables prisoners to gain skills and qualifications to help them reduce their risk of reoffending on release, has been awarded the 2019 Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Re-integration. Recycling Lives works in 11 UK prisons and was nominated for the award for its work at HMP Wymott in Lancashire.

The organisation engages up to 250 men and women at a time in its HMP Academies programme, which employs offenders in either recycling or fabrication work. It supports each man and woman to address offending behaviours, develop skills and secure work and housing for release. Fewer than 5% of participants reoffend and more than 70% find employment on release. 

A Fairer Chance has been Highly Commended for its work in connecting prisoners with employment tailored to their skills during and after release from HMP East Sutton Park in Kent. Circles South West has been Commended for its work rehabilitating individuals serving sentences for sexual offences at HMP Leyhill in Gloucestershire, by providing Circles of Support and Accountability during and after release.

This annual Award, which recognises outstanding rehabilitative work with prisoners by a charity or community group working in partnership with prison staff, was set up in the memory of Lord Corbett, the respected chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. For ten years, up until his death in February 2012, Robin Corbett also chaired the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group, to which the Prison Reform Trust provides the secretariat.

The Award particularly seeks to recognise work that fosters personal responsibility, and which encourages people in prison, and ex-offenders, to take responsibility to help both themselves and help others. 

The Awards, sponsored by the Chrysalis Foundation and the Worshipful Company of Weavers, were presented by Lady Corbett on 26 February 2019 at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group in the Houses of Parliament.  

The panel of judges included members of Robin Corbett’s family, the President of the Prison Governor’s Association, a Judge, the CEO of the Chrysalis Programme, the Director of the Prison Reform Trust, the Chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform, a Trustee of the Prison Reform Trust, an ex-offender, and Lord Ramsbotham, a former Chief Inspector of Prisons and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Penal Affairs.

The first prize is £5,000, with the runner-up awarded £3,000 and the commendation £1,000, all courtesy of the sponsorship from the inspirational Chrysalis Programme. Winners also receive glass plaques donated by James Timpson plus a book about the life of Lord Corbett.

Commenting Lady Corbett said: 

“Amongst some outstanding applications, Recycling Lives’ work and exceptional results meant that the judges were unanimous in their decision. A Fairer Chance were also worthy winners of the runner-up prize, and we were very happy to commend Circles South West for its vital work. My husband Robin was resolute in his belief that release from prison should be an opportunity to make positive changes in individual’s lives. All three charities stand as outstanding examples of how organisations can assist prisoners to help themselves.”

Alasdair Jackson, Chief Executive of Recycling Lives Charity & Social Enterprise, said:

“It is always fantastic to win any award. To receive the Robin Corbett Award is particularly special. It means so much as we are being recognised by experts in the prison field. To go from working with one man on ROTL 10 years ago, to changing hundreds of lives every year is something we are immensely proud of. My team deserve all the credit as they leave no stone unturned to help the people we work with. However, the real winners are those men and women who have turned their lives around. I couldn't be prouder of them.”

Maggie Walsh, CEO of A Fairer Chance, said:

“We feel honoured to be the Highly Commended winner of the Robin Corbett Award, and it is wonderful to have our work connecting women in prison with employers who match their skills and aspiration recognised. The prize money will go directly towards the delivery of a planned programme of cross-sector events and open days in HMP East Sutton Park and other women’s establishments. The profile that comes from the award will enable us to expand our operations and engage with a wider range of private sector employers.” 

Jo Burden, CEO of Circles South West, said:

“It wonderful to receive a commendation from this prestigious award, and a vindication of the work of our organisation. We hope that the raised profile resulting from the award will impact positively on our future funding enabling us to extend this work both on HMP Leyhill and other prisons in the south west, and the prize money will go towards this end