A valued friend of mine recently commented that the idea or concept of Prehabilitation within the justice system could get lost – before even getting started –  in the bigger political drive for Rehabilitation and Reintegration, further suggesting that post-release support seems to be gathering the most support these days. In what I considered, at the time, to be a little contradictory caveat he also suggested that keeping people out of prison – given current remand and population numbers – was also massive.

That there in a nutshell is the role of Prehabilitation. It doesn’t seek to replace the concepts of rehabilitation or reintegration but rather seeks to compliment them by creating a continuous link across the justice continuum, from first contact to last. An umbrella term which offers scope to create prevention strategies, community disposal strategies and develop the mindset that leads to the creation of potentially positive outcomes for the people encountering the justice system.

Prehabilitation – as a concept – is about putting people first, second and third. It is about closing the compassion gap which exists at a professional level in Scotland and it is about adding value to the existing services as well as inspiring new services, as well as offering hope to those who feel they have none.

It is my thought that the concept of Prehabilitation sits very well alongside the current drive to see a trauma informed country and an ACE aware nation.

From identifying industry sectors – and opportunities that may exist within them – that best serve the purposes of Prehabilitation through to rehabilitation and reintegration. All fall within the remit of a prehabilitative pathway. Many more accomplished, season and learned people than I can point out that evidence suggests prison doesn’t work and on that basis alone there are grounds for the introduction of a Prehabilitation discussion.

The term may be knew to people within the justice sector, a sector who like every market area in the world, has developed a language or at least a glossary of terms which are used to communicate messages within the group but which still need translating to outsiders. I guess Prehabilitation is in that sense in need of translation both within the sector and out with.

In the medical world the term Prehabilitation is commonly used and perhaps this example will spark a thought in those taking the time to read our blog that the concept could easily make the leap into the justice system. A medical patient experiencing great arthritic pain and poor quality of life as a result of the prohibitive nature of arthritis is referred to a consultant with a view on this occasion to being assessed for a knee replacement. After testing and consultation the doctor says that the knee operation can be done but only if the patient gets on board with a regime of health change. Prior to performing the surgery the consultant explains that the patient must lose weight and improve fitness levels overall. In essence your quality of life can improve dramatically if you work hard on your health, on that basis would you get on the treadmill? Losing weight and improving fitness will lead to a reduction in pain and improve quality of life, that’s medical Prehabilitation.

People within the justice system feel pain of a different sort but is it conceivable that building a prehabilitative pathway could help ease their pain and improve their quality of life?

First Time Inside, is one such new service inspired by the notion of Prehabilitation.

Aside from being a positive story of personal reintegration First Time Inside is simply a staging post on that aforementioned prehabilitative pathway. Individually it not only aims to tackle the compassion gap that unquestionably exists in the justice system but through communication, sharing, education and sheer force of will aims to provide a tangible benefit to individuals, their families and by extension the communities they live in.

The concept of Prehabilitation and the services of First Time Inside are aiming to contribute to  a system which achieves alternative outcomes to prison but where prison is considered necessary we hope to offer hope that this prison sentence will be the Last Time Inside.

As with every blog post we have added a small excerpt from a prisoners diary, see below;

“A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in writing a book and asked at the same time to attend a creative writing course with a view to doing the same. I must admit that whilst I have been utilising my time reading, writing and drawing in here I have not thought about it as any more than a mental escape. There are times when picking up a pen or pencil feels like the only defence against darkness of thought and fear of that same darkness. A little like clinging to the last bastion of sanity inside me. Anyway whilst I have no immediate thoughts of  winning any literary awards I did agree to attend the writing course if only to break the mind-numbing routine of this place. I also heard the tutor brought in home baking so what more incentive could you possibly need in this arena of culinary delights.

The tutor as it turns out is lovely and as well as possessing a wonderful manner presents an intellect that is so welcome. I’d sign up full time tomorrow if only for the conversation. As it turned out my fellow course delegates have all been attending this course for a while and are all quite a way down the road with their various literary projects. I’m not a great sharer of personal thoughts out with my own circle of trust but I was staggered by the willingness, possibly need, of all of these guys to share their project details – some of which were intensely private – so openly. Most were stories of a personal nature documenting lives affected by crime although others were more of a fiction led endeavour. I actually sat for two hours without putting pen to paper feeling – I’d be narcissistic to say writers block – more just stumped as to what I should write about. It was clear from the tutors perspective that I should write about how I ended up here but that’s just not me well not yet anyway.

Eventually I picked my pen. It’s like a little bookies pen, hardly ideal for writing more than the odds on a betting slip but apparently less attractive as a drug pipe than the standard Bic option. Every day is indeed a school day. Anyway after two hours of staring at a sheet of paper and obviously subconsciously thinking, I wrote the first line of my future number one best seller (madness is indeed setting in) and I was stunned by what I wrote – “I was seven years old when the monsters first appeared…” That line if taken in isolation would form the basis of a great family quiz about what people thought the topic of my scribbling was going to be.

In reality it’s about my treehouse, my place of escape in times of stress and crisis. Thankfully nobody will ever read this as anyone who knows me would tell me I’ve never owned or had or built a treehouse. Little do they know that I am expert in tree house design and that I work on the place almost every night in life. It guarantees me a good night sleep, although there have been a few nights in here where the distraction has been tested in an extreme way. I’m not sure I’ll pursue the idea of writing a book but I will continue to play with my thoughts and commit some to paper because the involvement with the group can only be a good thing. From two planks of wood to the inclusion of artificial intelligence tree houses have come a long way over the years. Self help book, now there’s a thought. 

Enough of this nonsense for now as it’s only about six hours until the door is opened and a small carton of milk dropped into the bird bath of a sink signals that groundhog day is starting all over again and I need to try get some sleep. Back to the Treehouse…”              



As always we appreciate the time people set aside to read our blogs, we try to keep them brief to let you get on with your busy lives. If they spark a thought or you feel like commenting please feel free to do so here or by e mail to [email protected]

Have a great week and we look forward to speaking with you all soon, @firsttimeinside out.







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