3:37pm Thursday 13th March 2014
By Jaber Mohamed
A charity in Tottenham has taken an innovative approach to reducing reoffending rates in north London.
One of the biggest challenges for people leaving prison is to make sure they do not end up back inside, but a charity in Tottenham has taken an innovative approach to reducing reoffending rates.
The HARRP Trust, in Ashley Road, has taken a holistic approach to working with people in the prison system to make sure they do not end up back in jail.
Michael Buraimoh, the charity’s founder and projects director, said: “There are organisations out there which help with housing and others with finding work and others with education – but they don’t work together and you can’t treat these things in isolation.
“We look at their whole situation and help them with whatever they need – housing, education, finding employment – anything.
“Sometimes you just need to get them out of their old environment so they are not tempted back into a life of crime.”
The HARRP Trust, which stands for The Holistic Action Reducing Re-offending Programme, was registered in 2011 but started off as under Haringey Borough Council in 2009.
Mr Buraimoh was employed by the authority to help reduce the numbers of offenders who served less than 12 months from ending up back in prison.
However, when the Government changed in 2010 and budget cuts were initiated he was forced to try to keep the programme running independently.
Currently, the trust is funded by a three year grant from the Big Lottery Fund but Mr Buraimoh said the journey has not been easy.
He said: “We got the funding just days before we were due to run out of money and close for good but luckily we got through by the skin of our teeth.
“There have been times when I have contemplated closing down the charity and going into secure employment.
“However, I’ve managed to stay resolute – inspired by the chance to make a difference.”
Anton Shelupanov, of the Centre for Justice Innovation, has included the trust’s story in his book Streetcraft – which showcases pioneers in criminal justice.
He said: “What the HARRP Trust does is quite unique because of a lot of services are targeted at hardened criminals, not people who have only been in prison for a few months.
“So, by intervening early and using a multi-faceted approach to tackle the problems re-offenders face, they can ensure more success.
“This isn’t something you see in most other models for reducing reoffending.”
One of the people who has benefited from the HARRP Trust’s work is 22-year-old Dwayne Bowen from Tottenham. He told the Haringey Independent his story.
I was recruited onto the HARRP Trust pilot last year by a case worker from HMP Pentonville, where I was serving a nine-month sentence for assault.
They came to see me and I told them the thing I wanted to see to have a different life. Both my parents are chefs and I wanted to do it but I never had the confidence.
Before prison my mind frame just wasn’t there – I wasn’t even thinking about work. I was probably just thinking about bad stuff.
When I was younger I had run-ins with the police and I was 21 when I was sent down. Where I’m from, we had an older lot who were like us.
It’s like a continuous thing if you are from that area, you kind of get brought into the life. No matter what, they are your friends.
I was kicked out of home when I was 15 because I was bad and my mum couldn’t handle it. I lived by myself and that’s when it all happened. I could do whatever I wanted.
The case worker worked with me to secure a place to study professional cookery at Hertford Regional College, which helped me stay out of trouble.
I began college last September and won competitions but still went to employability training sessions with the HARRP Trust.
In May 2012 the case worker helped me to secure a work placement in an Italian restaurant in the city and three weeks later I got a full time job at the White Rabbit, in Dalston, east London. I’ve been there ever since.
Because it was a brand-new restaurant we all came in at the same time. We’ve all got ideas on stuff to be done and we were all there to create the foundations.
My boss is wicked – he heard from the HARRP Trust that I wanted a trial. He heard about my background and he didn’t really care about that – he gave me a chance.
They wanted to know what I could do now. We had a little chat, then I did a trial for him and he liked the stuff I was cooking. Now I’m living back with my mum, and I see my son Dwayne-d’Angelo, who’s three, as much as I can.
My experience has been a journey coming from my background, because I was lost. But HARRP helped me focus on what I wanted in life, which is a future.
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