Interested in working in Offender Resettlement? Catch22’s Max Rumley shared his experiences and career journey with Careers in Justice. He explains what his journey involved, why he enjoys it and what attributes he feels people need to be successful in the sector.
When my degree came to an end in 2012, I was keen to jump straight into work and put the Criminology and Criminal Justice theory I’d learned into action. It was around then that I came across Catch22 – and straight away the organisation’s approach stood out from the crowd. The organisations vision is a strong society where everyone has a good place to live, a purpose and good people around them. We call this the 3 P’s, and it’s a simple and clear message which applies to both the people we support and our staff.
I know from experience that Catch22 recognise, develop and reward their staff- whether it be via progression routes or offering opportunities to train and learn from colleagues. I’ve learned a lot from experts at the organisation- not just in social justice, but across our vast footprint that includes education, employability and children and families services.
My first role with Catch22 was as a Case Administrator within the custodial Offender Management Unit (OMU), which gave me a really good grounding in the everyday processes which are key to prisons operating effectively. Over the following six years, I’ve worked across a number of frontline roles both within prisons and the community. I’ve supported service users with a variety of complex issues from substance misuse to employability; always with an ultimate focus of reducing their risk of reoffending.
I returned to HMP Thameside in 2016 to manage the Catch22 resettlement team there, but after a few months my role grew into also overseeing our teams at three other London prisons: HMP Thameside, ISIS and Feltham. As Cluster Manager, I led the strategy and operations for all of these resettlement services. Our teams have a strong reputation and align with the prison processes to ensure we’re able to operate effectively together. While I miss doing frontline work with service users, I take real pride in seeing our junior staff develop and progress, like I did. I have recently transitioned into a new role as the OMU Service Manager, a promotion which has given me a huge amount of pride as I am now leading the service I started at, back in 2012.
There have been a number of changes across the whole prison estate since I started my career. The ‘fair and sustainable’ model, introduced in November 2011, saw cuts to staffing which inevitably brought with it an impact in terms of activity available to prisoners, especially in the public estate. Transforming Rehabilitation came along in 2015 and shifted the focus of the entire sector towards ensuring that all sentenced prisoners can access suitable support as they transition into the community.
I’m proud of how we have responded to these changes. As a third sector organisation delivering Offender Management, an area often fairly prescriptive in nature and dominated by bureaucracy, Catch22 have a unique opportunity to ‘wear two hats’. As well as robust governance and performance measures underpinning our delivery, we also bring a spirit of innovation and act to challenge ineffective processes and maximise the impact we have for those we support.
Our resettlement teams work to ‘bring the outside in’, and work with external organisations to deliver a range of programmes. I feel this is absolutely crucial to the effective reintegration of prisoners back into society. It is hugely important to ensure a service user starts building solid connections in the community, and what better place to start than with positive working relationships whilst still in custody. A great example of this is the Responsible Dog Ownership programme, a Catch22 led initiative recently delivered at HMP Thameside in collaboration with Battersea Dogs Home staff.
Working in prisons can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle, and I think the qualities you need to succeed are:
Organised. We support thousands of people every year! It is essential that our people remain person centred in their approaches building quality relationships with those we support. This approach is what makes Catch22 unique preventing us from becoming bogged down in some of the more bureaucratic approaches adopted by some of our criminal justice sector partners.
Social and Empathetic. Building relationships with the people we support is crucial for services to actually work. If prisoners don’t feel connected to us, they won’t get the most out of the service or understand what we can help them achieve.
Dynamic. Our sector is challenging. We need people who spot new ways to do things and aren’t afraid to suggest these and challenge the status quo.
Supportive of colleagues. We’re all working towards the same goal, and success means we need to work across organisations and with our colleagues on the wings (residential units) and also in community services such as housing, employment, social care and education.