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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Therapist Kay helps prisoners deal with anger issues

HELPING prisoners deal with anger issues is the aim of a new course at Haverigg Prison.

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support: Kay McMahon has been working with prisoners

Run by Kay McMahon, a therapeutic practitioner, the sessions use yoga and breathing techniques to help the men relax, control their aggression and be aware of their reactions.

“I think that it’s common knowledge that regular meditation produces a relaxed state of mind,’’ Kay said.

“The eight-week course has better equipped the men to cope with the everyday challenges and knock backs which occur in prison and in everyday life.

“They learn to respond rather than to react emotionally to situations.’’

The prisoners at Haverigg are encouraged to be physically healthy, learning about nutrition and keeping fit.

They are also offered the chance to undertake vocational qualifications, as well as learning to improve their literary and numeracy skills.

Shane Spencer is a PE officer at Haverigg Prison.

He explained that helping the prisoners improve physically and mentally can be like “throwing a switch on’’ to show them “just what they are missing out on in life’’.

He said: “If you can help them build their self-esteem you can show them different options to a life of crime.

“You can help them see how to really enjoy life, to make the right choices.’’

Shane said it can be something simple such as helping someone improve their literary skills so they can maintain ties with their family by writing letters.

Introducing the anger management course, organised by The Whitehaven Community Trust through funding from The Big Lottery, is another way of helping prisoners with self-discipline.

The course incorporates mindfulness training, using mediation, yoga and breathing techniques.

This can help manage thoughts and feelings in order for a person not to be overwhelmed or controlled by them. It can also deal with stress, depression, anger and addictive behaviours.

Shane said: “I have had some excellent feedback from the prisoners.

“They state it has helped them control their aggression on the wing and in the workshops.

“A couple have even stated that they have been in confrontational situations since the course began and, instead of reacting and getting themselves into bother, they have actually took a step back, thought about the consequences of their actions and decided to walk away instead of rising to the bait.

“This is fantastic and could have a very positive effect within the jail.

“I am amazed at the level of interaction and respect the lads give to the sessions; you cannot hear a pin drop.’’

After completing the course, the men receive a certificate and, for many, this is the first time they will have received such an award.

One of the prisoners said: “I suffer from depression and split personality.

“This eight-week course helps me cope better. Before I started it I was going downhill and this has made a real difference.’’

Another said: “I feel human again after the sessions. I have learned so much about me. I am moving soon and attending these sessions have given me skills to cope with life in prison.’’

While another prisoner said: “After the first session of anger management I knew that this was for me, it all made so much sense.

“Don’t know what I would have been like if I hadn’t joined up.

“I am leaving soon and starting back into a very stressful job. I’ve been given information and will be joining a class when I go home.

“This has been the only positive thing about being inside.’’

Kay said: “I think that it is true to say that we all have habitual patterns, sometimes deep rooted, and often we slip back into emotions such as inadequacy, fear, frustration, anger, despair and judgement.

“It is helpful to remember that over time, with mindfulness, no matter how powerful a habit is, it’s definitely possible to weaken and reduce its influence.

“Feedback from the prisoner shows that attitudes and behaviours have improved since commencing the course.

“I would like to say how grateful I’ve been for the support of all those who attended the course and the officers, including Shane and Roy Dangerfield, for all their help.’’

Kerry Maxwell, chief executive of The Whitehaven Community Trust, said: “The Trust, through funding from The Big Lottery, has been able to extend its programme of anger management to prisoners in Haverigg.

“The ‘mindful’ work Kay has been commissioned to deliver to the prisoners has helped them deal with any conflict situations that may arise during their sentence and this technique can be used throughout their lives.

“I believe that if the mindful process has helped any of the young men to think before they act in a negative way and stops them from re-offending we have succeeded in what we are trying to do.

“This method is something that could be delivered in all prisons.’’

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