How "a couple of hours painting" led to the formation of Release Mates
Release Mates began when two former offenders were asked to redecorate a prison building at HMP Preston.
During this time, the pair noticed that prison leavers who came into the freshly decorated building were more open and forthcoming to them, than they appeared to be with established services. Many of those newly released people were inquisitive of how the ex-offenders had turned a new leaf to become productive members of society. From these conversations came the idea of Release Mates, a pretty simple concept based on the theory that if prison leavers were greeted by those who had become pro-social ex-offenders, they would believe that change is possible and may learn a few things. It became clear that the project is most effective when working with prison leavers who have served a short sentence, those who have not spent enough time in prison to engage with other services.
Release Mates grew at pace. The service quickly changed from being two men helping prison leavers, to a recognised service. It did not take long for other prisons to become inquisitve of what was on offer.
Having recognised that help would be needed in keeping the project running, and expanding to other prisons, volunteering opportunities are now offered to prison leavers who have maintained a life free of crime.