Adrian Rooke visits Adfam in Holloway Prison

In a similar spirit of understanding what treatment options are available, counsellor Adrian Rooke left the comparative comfort of Broadway Lodge’s rural residence service to work with Adfam in London’s Holloway Prison.

When my chief executive, Pauline Bissett, asked me if I would like to do an exchange day with Adfam – a national charity which supports families of substance users, and provides direct services in Holloway and Bristol prisons – with the objective of exchanging working ideas and practices. I had little or no idea of the impact the day would have on me.

After I set off from Bristol’s Temple Meads station at 6:30am, navigating myself across London using the Tube was, in itself, an adventure. It highlighted the enormous size of our capital city and the vast number of human beings who live and work in London.

Eventually arriving at Holloway Prison, I was directed to its Visitors Centre. I was unexpectedly impressed by the warmth of the interior design and cheery greetings, and felt immediately at ease. I was shown to Adfam’s office and was struck by how small the room was – probably the size of my office at Broadwy Lodge. The difference was that three people were working from this office, coupled with all the administration and paperwork. To me it felt claustrophobic, but it seemed to function like a well-oiled engine.

I was introduced to a member of the team who was assigned to look after me during the visit. The procedure of entering the prison was explained to me and, with a mild sense of both excitement and trepidation, we set off to the main entrance. The process of getting into the prison was daunting and time consuming. As each door was locked behind us, I began to get a sense of what it must be like for people being imprisoned for the first time.

After entering the inner confines of the prison building, we headed for the prison detoxification wing. Despite all of us working in this profession being aware of the link between crime and drugs, to witness the number of young women incarcerated as a result of their relationship to drugs and their consequent crime to fund that addiction, was still shocking.

I was struck by the size of the complex, it felt like a fully functioning city within itself. Staffing levels in the prison are such that I am sure some might never meet each other. In contrast, in Broadway Lodge we have a close working relationship with all areas of the organisation.

One of the roles and responsibilities of Adfam staff is to make themselves know to all new arrivals on the wing to see if they could benefit by accessing the Adfam programme. For those who do want to use the services, an important function is to act as a link with the prisoner’s family, Adfam is independent. Links have also been formed with other independent organisations in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, such as the Rapt – Rehabilitation for Addiction Prisoners trust – and the Carat schemes.

I was told one of the biggest frustrations for the Adfam workers is that, having engaged prisoners in utilising services, there is no knowing how long that individual will remain at Holloway Prison due to movement, often at short notice, within the system.

This is unlike my working environment, where I expect the client to complete an eight week programme, allowing me the opportunity of developing a working relationship and achieving the set goals and aims agreed on entering Broadway Lodge. There, we have daily routine which is rarely interrupted whereas it would appear that Adfam has to face many potential interruptions, including lock downs.

I picked up a strong feeling that the services provided by Adfam were not prioritised by the prison system, with the team expected to do the best it could in very challenging circumstances.

As we left out of the prison, there was a chance to reflect on my experience. I was left feeling nothing but admiration for thee Adfam team. This front-line services is providing a vital link between prisoners and their families, helping to restore a sense of hope but in very trying and difficult circumstances.

Returning to Broadway Lodge and writing this article about Holloway ‘job shadowing’, it struck me that some of the clients here – and myself to some extent – will have benefited from the work which organisations such as Adfam will have started.

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