We caught up with Lisa Marie, our dedicated support worker who oversees the mentoring and support of our prisoner trainees at HMP Cardiff, to find out what daily life is like working in at The Clink.

It costs us £1,500 a year to mentor and support a Clink Graduate once they are released from prison and it’s the most critical stage of our five-step programme that has been designed to break the cycle of crime and give more prisoners a second chance in life.

How did you get involved with The Clink Charity?
I saw a job advertisement on a job website and was successful with my application after three interviews.

What does a typical day as a Clink support worker entail?
A day can depend on how many released clients need to be seen and what level of needs they have. My days are never the same as not only do I support and mentor released clients, but also our trainees out on ROTL (Release on Temporary Licence), helping them secure placements in the community.

Admin is a major part of each day, whether it’s emails, case notes, phone calls or reports for parole boards. I have to liaise with employers, other agencies and the prison frequently.

What are the key steps from taking a prisoner through The Clink rehabilitation programme to them successfully finding employment upon their release?
Confidence building and the improvement of social skills play a major role in the development of trainees. Prisoners adapt to their surroundings when in custody, so they need to recognise what behaviour is considered inappropriate when in the community. Some become institutionalised but unaware of their behaviours.

To prepare the prisoners for securing employment, we make them aware of any changes that have occurred whilst they have been in prison and hold mock interviews to give prisoners more experience on how business is conducted in day-to-day employment.

What have you learnt from working with prisoners?
Although they perceive themselves to be confident, most prisoners are anything but. Their behaviour often changes close to their release, not because they are excited but because they are anxious about what happens after they leave prison.

Many return to prison due to a lack of support they have received after their release, which is why we are dedicated to meeting with our graduates and offer support even once they’ve been released.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
To see my client’s progress and be recognised in a positive light, not judged for their criminal background. It’s a great feeling to have a client come back after 12 months and tell you how different their life is now because of The Clink. Also, to see the stigma of employers and society changing when they meet our trainees and graduates, and watch them get praised by customers who come to experience The Clink restaurant.

Where do you see the charity in the next five years?
In every major prison around the UK and maybe even Ireland – who knows!

What has been your stand out moment since joining The Clink as a support worker?
I have two! The first successful graduates’ reunion last year was a really rewarding experience for me. Over 30 released graduates came together to share their stories of where they are now with fellow and unknown trainees. It made me so proud to see so many happy positive moments.

The second was when I took a head chef to interview one of our trainees. It was definitely a first-hand experience for the chef as he interviewed him on the wing. My client got the job and has been working in the same place for the last 16 months, where he has achieved promotion to Chef De Partie. My client was on his third sentence having been born into a criminal lifestyle and has now turned his life around, relocating away from old associates and re-establishing a strong relationship with his family. His passion for cooking will definitely take him all the way to his ambition of becoming a head chef.

How can employers get involved with offering employment opportunities to Clink graduates and ex-offenders?
I hold forums every three months where I invite new employers into The Clink Restaurant for two and a half hours over a morning. During this time I give a brief history of The Clink, introduce an existing employer as well as an existing trainee and past graduate. This is followed by an interactive Q&A session which has been very successful in obtaining new employers.

By welcoming potential employers to The Clink and allowing them to witness the benefits of our programme we’re able to ignite more concrete interest in potential partnerships. As well as supporting our trainees and graduates, I also explain the support we give to the employers, ensuring placements never become a burdening task.

What advice or guidance would you give to aspiring support workers looking to help improve the lives of others?
Have empathy and look past peoples’ choices. There are reasons why people make choices in life. Sometimes it’s out of their hands and the choices are made for them. You may not agree with opinions and choices made by the client, but you must be sure that you don’t judge, but guide, advise and empower them to make positive choices.