The Irish Red Cross in Prisons ‘This was the main catalyst for me to change my life around.’

As heard on Morning Ireland

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An initiative by the Irish Red Cross in twelve prisons around the country trains volunteer prisoners to run health awareness campaigns and first aid courses. It’s a world-first initiative and Morning Ireland’s Cian McCormack reported on it on Wednesday’s programme.  The Red Cross’s Community-based Health and First Aid Action programme – which was originally developed in Geneva – has never been tried in a prison setting before, but, according to Graham Betts-Symonds, programme director for the Red Cross, it’s been a resounding success so far. And Cian has a stand-out statistic:

“Ten percent of the prison population are Red Cross volunteers.”

Betts-Symonds describes how the programme works in a prison setting: “The block of a prison is a neighbourhood, the landing is a street, and the cell is a household.” He told Cian how the Irish Red Cross had gone to Australia and trained the Red Cross there to implement the programme in prisons and it’s now running successfully in three states.

The programme is helping to improve health among prisoners, according to Fergal Black, the Irish Prison Service’s Director of Care and Rehabilitation:

“We have found that using prisoners with their peers has been a real success.”

Cian spoke to inmates attending a showcase where prisoners detailed projects they were involved in to help other prisoners. The reaction seemed overwhelmingly positive.

“A big thing that you learn from stuff like this is empathy and understanding other people and problems that they might have in life as well.”

The Red Cross’s programme has helped prisoners with confidence as well as empathy and, one inmate told Cian, has made a positive contribution to their rehabilitation.

You can hear Cian’s full report at the link above, and the rest of Morning Ireland, here.



© The Listener 2017

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