Mentoring for women in prison

Women exiting prison are among the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised individuals in our society. They often feel they are judged negatively by the community and experience discrimination due to their criminal record when it comes to getting work.

Our unique Mentoring for Women in Prison program empowers women exiting prison by giving them the skills and ongoing support they need to break the cycle of crime and unemployment.

Fitted for Work’s Volunteer Manager, Merredith Murphy, has worked to support women exiting prison for over a decade. She also developed, and manages, our highly successful mentor program pairing trained mentors with women looking for work.

Merredith is inspired by the difference mentors can make in times of need in a woman’s life. She’s excited to be able to offer this support to women at a time of great need – when they’re leaving prison….

It’s a real pleasure to share our progress on the Mentoring for Women in Prison initiative made possible by Fitted for Work’s live crowd-funding event in November 2019.

We’ll be using the $31,000 raised to help women gain the skills and confidence that they need to secure employment, stay out of prison and establish productive, connected lives in the community.

Following the fund-raising event, we met with prison staff to share the good news and discuss the logistics of adding mentoring to our successful Transition to Work Program serving women in the Dame Phyliss Frost Centre and Tarrengower prisons. There are security issues to consider and operational challenges such as finding locations where mentors and mentees could meet.

We are working on developing capacity within our volunteer mentors, who need additional training to best support women in prison.

In late May we planned to introduce our newly trained mentors to their first mentees – women taking part in our Transition to Work Program at Tarrengower prison.

However, when Covid-19 restrictions started in March, we lost our ability to work face-to-face with women in the prison system and unfortunately, access to Fitted for Work’s innovative Virtual Services is not an option. The prisons aren’t able to support virtual program delivery due to limitations on technology coupled with managing security risks.

So, we haven’t been able to deliver the Transition to Work program at either the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre or Tarrengower prisons this year and this will delay the introduction of mentoring for women in prison.

What’s next?

We designed our wholistic Transition to Work Program to build job readiness and job-seeking skills for women transitioning out of the prison system, whilst also fostering personal growth and well-being.

Specialised trainers deliver eight employment readiness modules focusing on:  confidence, personal strengths, communication, learning styles, looking after yourself and understanding the workplace. We deliver these sessions in small groups within the prison setting to women within 6-9 months of release.

The program ends with an Expo day delivered by Fitted for Work staff and corporate volunteers. It’s a fun day offering sessions on personal presentation and make up, mock interviewsresume writinglooking for work with a criminal record, online job seeking and problem solving.

Introducing one on one mentoring will offer unique support and positive role modelling opportunities for women. We can’t wait to get started!

Our mentors, the prison staff, and most importantly, the women in the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and Tarrengower prisons, are looking forward to us resuming our Transition to Work Program as soon as possible.” Merredith Murphy, Volunteer Manager.