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Clean Sheet – a fresh start for ex-offenders

Jane Gould, director of Clean Sheet, explains how this growing Christian ministry to prisoners began ...

Jane Gould, director of Clean Sheet, explains how this growing Christian ministry to prisoners began ...

In 2010, an ex-offender we knew suggested going into prison to talk about Job Clubs and Employment.

It’s a shocking fact that a massive two-thirds of all prisoners are unemployed during the four weeks before imprisonment; and a major cause of reoffending.

Soon afterwards, we were doing interview preparation with another ex-offender. D. was 32, and had spent 14 years in and out of prison.

He was desperate to change his life and I asked him what his dream was. His answer was “All I really want is to start again, with a clean sheet.”

The words resonated immediately. Isn’t this exactly what God has given each one of us? We also believe that caring for prisoners’ welfare is at the heart of the Gospel message.

Starting in 2011, our teams of church-based volunteers have now led Ways to Work© in 10 UK prisons – recognising achievement, developing a practical pathway to aspiration and referring to a local Job Club.

It’s wonderful to get feedback from prisoners. A typical example was from J. in HMP Peterborough. ”This was my first ray of hope that life could be different”.

But where were the jobs? It’s tough being workless; but add the millstone of a criminal record and it gets even harder. So we needed employers who would consider ex-offenders for employment, despite their criminal record. We now have employers like Marks & Spencer, Boots, Skanska, and East Coast Rail who are registered with the Clean Sheet Employers Directory.

We enjoy building relationships of trust between prisons, churches, ex-offenders and employers. Our volunteers need real patience and flexibility for this work and protective prayer support from their churches.

Clean Sheet is not a quick fix – it’s a long pathway. But we are encouraged by signs of success.
Ex-heroin addict and repeat offender G. was longing to be free from the cycle of chaos. On release she was helped to find a place in a local Hope into Action house – and built relationships in the local church. The next step is finding work and a fulfilled life “on the out”.

Find out how you and your church can get involved at www.cleansheet.org.uk

  • Would you like a grant of £1,500-£3,000 to start a church-based community project? The Cinnamon Network is trying to make it as easy as possible for local churches to serve those people most at need in their communities. Get started at www.cinnamonnetwork.co.uk

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