Since the start of 2023, Walsall FC Foundation has been delivering an FA qualification to inmates at Featherstone Prison. The delivery is part of the National Twinning Project, a charity started by David Dein MBE and works to reduce reoffending on inmate release from prison.
In total, 66 football clubs and sports charities are partnered by the Twinning Project to their local prisons.
Strict guidelines ensure suitability of inmates on the programme and delivery consists of classroom and practical sessions. The Prison Service currently holds 83,500 men, women and young people in the 114 prisons in England and Wales.
At any given time approximately 79,000 of these are held in the 108 custodial establishments in England (comprising 74,200 adult males, 4,000 women and 800 young people) and all apart from a very small proportion (circa 200) will at some stage, return and live as part of our communities in England.
The relationship with the Twinning Project and prisons resides with the Community Foundations of the clubs.
Prior to the Twinning Project there were only a handful of clubs delivering football-based programmes, spasmodically, with no structure, and no clear aim or objective. The Twinning Project is a central pillar of the HMPPS strategy.
Professional football clubs and the FA will use the experience of their coaches and referees and the power of their brands to engage the disengaged. Many prisoners have been excluded from school and have developed a resistance to learning and exercise. The Twinning Project approach uses football to help break down these barriers and uses sport as a catalyst for change.
On completion of the first full cohort earlier this month, Manny Monthe visited the prison to meet inmates and hand out their certificates. Manny also spent time talking to the inmates about his life experiences and offering advice for them to consider once released.
“I have really enjoyed engaging with the Foundation activities over this season especially their Youth and Adult engagement programmes," said Manny.
"I have faced my share of challenges over the years and to be able to share my story with young people and adults is something I am keen to do.
"Hopefully my standing as a professional footballer and my experiences might mean that positive messages reach the participants and encourage them to embrace positive change.”
The project, which the Foundation has been involved with since 2021, has been delivered by Scott Sumner, Foundation Officer for Sport. Our first full cohort of 14 participants completed in early March, the first full post-covid delivery.
“Delivering this project has been a new experience for me and something I have really enjoyed," said Scott.
"It was strange to deliver inside a prison but the positive outcomes are hopefully there for everyone to see. We want to encourage the participants to think about changes they can make to their lives and hope they will engage on our adult support programmes on release.
"Manny’s visit was brilliant for everyone involved and he enjoyed meeting the participants. We have arranged a second cohort to begin their course and education programme in April.”
The work of the Foundation, in HMP Featherstone, was supported by the Relationship Lead, David Streetley. His role involves supporting the Foundations with their delivery in prisons and shaping the course. Full information about the National Twinning Project can be seen here.