Second chances – the Integrated Offender Management scheme
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The old saying, ‘Everybody deserves a second chance’ could have been written for an initiative which gives offenders an opportunity of putting their past behind them and starting again.
The Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme, which takes place across the country, brings together the police and other agencies like the local authorities and Probation to work with offenders who are just out of prison to help rehabilitate them and break the habit of breaking the law.
37-year-old Will Gifford, from Wiltshire, was jailed twice for burglary – he broke into his neighbours’ homes and stole alcohol to feed his drinking addiction. It was when he was released from prison the second-time that he took the opportunity to join an IOM programme.
That was September 2020 – and since then, thanks to IOM, he now feels he has a future.
Will said: “I truly believe that my life is now fantastic due to the IOM and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and those people attached to it.”
‘Those people’ include Mark Wilkinson, from Wiltshire Police, who helps run the IOM programme in the county.
Mark said: “Whilst some people commit crime purely as a lifestyle choice many feel they have no alternative due to unforeseen circumstances or because of being alienated due to past behaviour which has led to them being unable to get work or other support to help them break free from committing crime.”
Prison was the life-changing point
Will admits that it was meeting Mark which helped him kick the habit of drinking and committing crime: “Both AA and Mark have given me so much confidence and self-belief to help get me out of that destructive cycle of drinking and offending. But I have had to work at it too. It’s a two way thing – change has had to start with me.
“Prison was definitely the pivotal moment for me. The first time (he was in for six weeks) I was on a wing for first time offenders and although not nice it wasn’t really that hard.
The second time (he served another 10 weeks) was much more difficult – I was on the big boys’ wing and surrounded by violent men who scared me. It wasn’t nice and that shock helped to wake me up.”
Will now works with his dad in the family business having trained as a pet behaviourist after leaving prison. He’s also a keen sailor, racing his small boat when he can.
He said: “I am determined to keep on doing what I am now doing - building the business, sailing my dinghy, continuing to attend AA, remaining sober and staying on the straight and narrow.
“In fact, I am now helping others who are new to AA – giving them the support that I received when I first started going.”
Breaking the cycle of crime
Mark Wilkinson acknowledges that Will is a completely changed man since they met 15 months ago. He said: “Will is a success story and reflects how the IOM programme can help individuals providing that person is prepared to put the work in.
“Often the people we see have issues with alcohol and/or substance abuse, homelessness, mental health, employment and domestic abuse. IOM identifies what a person requires and supporting agencies work side by side with us and Probation to address those needs. The ultimate objective is to reduce neighbourhood crime and victims of crime, make society a safer place and cut down on the number of police deployments to repeat offenders.
“To date there have been several stories of former criminals who have successfully broken their cycle of criminality – Will is one of those.”
And Will echoes that: “If you’re fresh out of prison and have a genuine desire to change your life then the IOM programme is extremely helpful; it builds your confidence and helps you deal with any challenges that lie ahead.
“They treat you like an equal – the IOM team genuinely want to help and if they see you putting the work in, they will go out of their way to support you.”