Rory Stewart ACE project

Ahead of Prisons Week, Rory joined a coffee morning at St Andrews Church, Penrith, to hear how Caritas Care’s ACE project transforms the lives of ex-offenders.

The well-attended event held on Friday, October 11th, was organised by Stan Blacklock, who volunteers with the ACE project, to highlight Prisons Week and raise awareness of the great work the ACE project does. The programme works with ex-offenders preparing them for release, and supporting them back into the community. It works with statutory, voluntary and private services to ensure that individuals have access to community links and have some stability on which to build a better future.

As a former prisons minister with a keen interest in prisoner rehabilitation, Mr Stewart was delighted to be able to support the event and meet both volunteers and ex offenders involved with the ACE project. A number of former prisoners spoke movingly about how the project had changed their lives – building their self esteem, helping them get back on their feet and over their addictions.

Last August, Mr Stewart started the 10 Prisons Project – a year-long programme to reduce violence and drug use at some of the most challenging prisons in England and Wales. Through enhanced security, strong leadership and improved standards, statistics published a year later showed an overall 16% reduction in assaults and a 50% reduction in positive drug tests across the 10 prisons. HMP Lindholme and HMP Isis both saw a 46% reduction in assaults, while drug use fell by 84% at Lindholme and 78% at HMP Wealstun. While not all 10 prisons saw an improvement, this was a serious step in the right direction. And evidence from the project is now being used to drive up standards across the estate.

After the Penrith event, Mr Stewart said: “I am so glad I was able to find out more about the brilliant ACE project and hear first hand what an incredible impact it is having on people’s lives. It was truly amazing to hear some of the stories of how ACE has helped people. I spent a lot of time while I was prisons minister, visiting prisons and engaging with staff and prisoners and know that the work Caritas Care and other charities do is crucial.”

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