A MENTORING scheme for prisoners has been awarded nearly £600,000 to work with prolific offenders before they are released from jail

A MENTORING scheme for prisoners has been awarded nearly £600,000 to work with prolific offenders before they are released from jail

The Positive Routes project run by the Wise Group is to be extended from Barlinnie, Kilmarnock, Greenock and Dumfries prisons, providing mentors to try to reduce reoffending.

The Big Lottery Fund has given the social enterprise £590,522 to fund five workers who will help tackle the underlying causes of repeat criminality.

Positive Routes gives mentoring to short-term male offenders over the age of 25 once they reach the end of their sentence.

The mentors, some of whom have been offenders themselves in the past, provide support and advocacy for up to six months before prisoners are freed and continue the work after the offender's release from prison. The scheme aims to help prisoners manage the transition back to freedom by tackling problems such as housing, employment, health and finances.

Other partners in the project, including the Scottish Association for Mental Health and social care charity Turning Point, offer help to those with mental health and addiction issues by providing one-to-one and group support.

As well as employing five full time mentors, the Wise Group will recruit volunteer mentors who will offer support through peer support networks. Laurie Russell, Chief Executive of The Wise Group, said: "The aim is to reduce re-offending by ensuring short-term male prisoners over 25 years of age can access appropriate support and mentoring services before and after release."

Over two years the project will work with 378 prisoners in the west of Scotland. Mr Russell added: "We are focusing on young male prolific offenders using trained mentors, some of whom are themselves ex-prisoners or from similar backgrounds to those they will be working with. It is about changing the lifestyle people have been leading: a huge proportion don't have a GP and have housing or health issues.

"Although the main aim is to reduce offending, we are aiming to get as many as we can into training or work. The Scottish Government's research has shown quality mentoring helps people think things through."

Big Lottery Fund Scotland chairwoman Maureen McGinn said: "This funding will develop the Positive Routes project which will help to tackle, head on, many of those multiple and underlying causes of reoffending. Those offenders nearing release will be assigned a mentor who will provide them with one-to-one support and a clear action plan before and following their release.

"The Wise Group has extensive experience of providing this type of integrated approach to offenders and is therefore well placed to deliver this new project."