Professionals working with prisoners, ex-prisoners or those sentenced to community punishments in the North East have been presented with awards for their efforts to reduce re-offending by north east charity Nepacs.

The awards have been running since 2004 and in 2018 were renamed in honour of long standing Nepacs’ patron Ruth Cranfield who had the vision and energy to organise the beginnings of Nepacs in its present day form. Nepacs want to ensure their Awards reward, promote and celebrate that kind of commitment in others working in the difficult climate of today.

Each year the Nepacs Ruth Cranfield Awards highlight and celebrate examples of exceptional work by people in the North East in the cause of rehabilitating prisoners into society and helping to cut the risk of re-offending.

This year’s awards and certificates were presented by Bronwen Elphick, Regional Probation Director North East for HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) at an event on Wednesday 22 September 2021 at Emirates Riverside, Chester-le-Street.

The awards celebrated projects that support prisoners planning for release and afterwards, working with agencies to help promote purposeful and communal activity and build self-belief, helping them to re-establish themselves outside prison, securing accommodation, work and positive family relationships.

The five main awards this year were presented to:

Sharon Carter, Residential Officer, HMP & YOI Kirklevington GrangeFor development of the allotment project which helped to open doors to new skill development and experiences, as well as providing physical exercise and mental well-being. The area has been transformed into a vibrant part of the prison.

Speech and Language Therapy Team, Health and Justice Service, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust – Communication needs detrimentally affect up to 80% of the prison population. The team, developed over the past 3 years, works with assessment and therapy to empower and support individuals affected, improving relationship, employment and education issues, as well as working with health, police and prison colleagues to raise awareness locally and nationally.

Kath Keenan and Angeline Smith, HMP DurhamFor working tirelessly to help prisoners in the difficult circumstances of the last year and support colleagues in doing so, with utmost compassion and empathy. Always proactive, both have worked hours beyond their shifts to reduce prisoners’ anxiety and stress, and in particular ensuring family relationships thrive, always remembering the small things that make all the difference.

Sharon Pickup, Mentor, The Wise Group – For support she has provided to countless service users over the last 2 years to make the transition from prison into the community, enabling them to make positive choices to lead a more fulfilled life through both practical and emotional help and support. Following her own life experiences, when she underwent many of the problems they are going through, her belief in the possibility of change empowers others to believe in themselves.  

Special Award – Helen Attewell, former CEO of Nepacs – For outstanding service to Nepacs and to prisoners in the North East, their families and significant others.

19 certificates of high commendation were also presented to the following individuals or teams who work within criminal justice across the north east:

  • Phil Lamb and the Segregation Unit Team, HMP & YOI Deerbolt
  • The Activity Hub Team, HMP & YOI Deerbolt
  • Gavin Arneil, Violence Reduction Officer at HMP & YOI Deerbolt
  • Kim Hogg, Head of Healthcare at HMP & YOI Low Newton
  • Jeff Lawton, Mentor for Prison Officer Entry Level Training at HMP Holme House
  • Sammy Wilson, HMP Holme House
  • Hilary Askin, Nepacs visitors centre manager, HMP Holme House
  • Nepacs team at HMP Holme House
  • Humankind/DART Team at HMP Holme House
  • Darlington Borough Housing Options Team
  • Darlington 700 Club
  • Andrew Carr, front of house manager at HMP Northumberland
  • Cleveland Probation Service Admin Team
  • Beverley Brooks, The Recruitment Junction
  • POMS, Offender Management Unit, HMP Durham
  • Nichola Kelly, Northumbria CRC Enhanced Through the Gate team in HMP Durham
  • Northumbria CRC Enhanced Through the Gate Team, HMP Durham
  • Northumbria CRC Enhanced Through the Gate Team, HMP Northumberland
  • Project in a Box Team, Northumbria CRC

Amanda Lacey, chief executive of Nepacs, said:

“Our Nepacs Ruth Cranfield Awards aim to maintain a focus on rehabilitation within the criminal justice system and to ensure that good and innovative practice and ideas are broadcast as widely as possible so that they can be replicated elsewhere. This year, after a year’s hiatus, Nepacs also wanted to celebrate people who have gone further than ever before in the exceptionally difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic for all involved in the criminal justice system.

“I would like to congratulate and thank everyone who was nominated or received an award for going above and beyond to make a difference to the lives of people involved in the criminal justice system who want to turn their lives around. All of our winners and recipients of certificates have gone the extra mile to help support a positive future for their clients and offer hope for the future.”

For further information on the Nepacs’ Ruth Cranfield awards and previous winners visit www.nepacs.co.uk