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Project information

Prison life coaching programme for young black men

Young black men in prison are over-represented, but few services are tailored to their needs. Most services are designed for white men, with little consideration for any differences. We will create a version of our life coaching intervention for young black men in prison, to reduce reoffending.

January 2019 - December 2019

Charity information: Spark Inside

Spark Inside logo
  • Need


    Black (and dual-heritage) men form 25% of over-18s and 41% of under-18s in custody. Furthermore, young black men have more negative experiences in prison, as well as reduced access to rehabilitation opportunities (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons). Studies show that they need customised support to break free of crime, yet, interventions in prisons designed specifically to improve life outcomes for black man, and therefore reduce reoffending, are rare or non-existent. This is not acceptable.


    As recently requested by prison governors, we will customise our existing Hero’s Journey life coaching programme for black and dual-heritage men aged 15-25. Hero’s Journey offers group workshops and follow-on one-to-one coaching sessions with our qualified, professional life coaches. Independent, external evaluations confirm that Hero’s Journey reduces reoffending and violence, improves problem-solving, confidence, resilience, wellbeing and decision-making.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Create a customised coaching programme for young black men in prison to meet their unique needs


    » Conduct focus groups with young black men in prison to understand their unmet needs
    » Co-design a new Hero’s Journey workshop with focus group participants
    » Pilot the programme with 35 young black men in two prisons
    » Monitor and evaluate the pilot, gathering participant feedback and adapting the programme in real time

    What success will look like

    35 young black men participated in the workshops and 23 went onto the one-to-one life coaching sessions.

    Aim 2

    To reduce young black men’s levels of reoffending


    » Conduct pre-engagement outreach in prisons/Young Offender Institutions in London and the South-East, to recruit young black men aged 15-25
    » Run group coaching workshops in custody, which integrate coaching techniques with cultural references in an interactive, accessible format
    » Follow up one-to-one coaching, delivered by qualified and experienced life coaches, as young people leave prison and transition back to the community
    » Fully monitor and evaluate the impact of the programme in partnership with an independent, external evaluator

    What success will look like

    Quantitative data from the Prison NOMIS database will enable us to demonstrate impact on in-prison violence and post-release reoffending rates.

    Aim 3

    Ensure the project is sustainable, at least one prison will commission the programme after the pilot


    » Cost the programme
    » Meet with the prison governor after the pilot, and receive minimum of marginal cost and ideally full cost recovery for future delivery
    » Prison promotes programme to participants and participates promote it to their peers
    » Other prisons express interest in piloting

    What success will look like

    At least one prison will commission the programme, post-pilot

  • Impact


    This pilot will deliver the only customised coaching intervention for young black men in prison. In the short-term, it will reduce their reoffending rates, and improve their confidence, resilience, decision-making and problem-solving, which we can demonstrate via qualitative and quantitative data. In the long-term, it will lead them toward more positive life opportunities, fulfilling education, employment and training and remove young black men from the generational cycle of reoffending.


    Prison lockdowns, and client drop-outs, happen due to the chaotic and varying nature of prison regimes (we engage with prison staff to minimise disruption and monitor performance); prison staff are inaccessible, due to staffing shortages and so unable to help coordinate logistics or unlock prisoners (our Service Delivery Managers are prison-based, and responsible for logistics); commissioning funds are unavailable (we are in constant contact with prison governors and plan for commissioning gaps)


    Spark Inside will engage with donors to understand their reporting preferences. Donors will receive regular communication detailing the progress made; results from the independent evaluation; feedback and case studies from participants and coaches; and learning gained through delivering the project.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £100,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £5,000 Coach recruitment & training Recruitment of new coaches especially for this programme, who will have specific training
      £14,400 Programme Design Co-ordinator Experienced Life Coach and programme designer to lead on design and review - 1 day/week for a year
      £5,000 Specialist Adviser 10 days of specialist advice on theoretical black/dual heritage perspective
      £3,600 Promotion Design / print of specialist promotional / delivery materials for the programme
      £5,000 External evaluation External evaluation of the project including analysis of reoffending data
      £21,480 Coaching delivery costs Professional life coach fees for delivery of life coaching programme, plus travel expenses
      £40,455 Programme & admin staff costs Salary costs including pension and Employer's NI; plus staff training / travel / other costs
      £5,065 Other service delivery costs Prison vetting; coach supervision; service user involvement, and office costs
  • Background


    The project will take place in prisons in London and the South-East (with follow-through support to local communities). Prisons are not places of safety and do not deliver rehabilitation. Staff shortages mean many prisoners are locked in their cells for nearly 24 hours a day. Incidents of violence and self-harm are at their highest levels. Despite nearly all prisoners (97%) wanting to stop offending, prison isn’t effective at reducing crime – 65% of young people are reconvicted within one year.


    Participants will be young men, aged 15-25, who self-identify as Black (i.e. African, African-Caribbean, Black British-mixed heritage). Participants will have less than 6 months left on their sentences and be the most likely to reoffend. All participants will have complex issues, likely to have faced racism and social exclusion i.e. participants are likely to have mental health issues, substance misuse issues and a history of abuse and neglect (including being in the Care System).

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Spark Inside is well-placed to deliver this project due to our track record. Our award-winning Hero’s Journey programme has worked with almost 500 young people in 9 prisons. It delivers positive outcomes: a 2014/15 external evaluation of our work with 134 young prisoners found the programme reduced reoffending by 33%. A recent evaluation found Hero’s Journey participants experienced statistically significant increases in wellbeing, decision making, problem-solving, resilience and confidence.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Baillie Aaron

    Founder & CEO. Harvard & Cambridge graduate (behavioural economics & criminological research), serial social entrepreneur, qualified Life Coach

    Ihona Hirving

    Head of Programme Operations. 30+ years national and global senior experience in operations and criminal justice, qualified youth worker

    Simone Ujah

    Service Delivery Manager. Qualified youth worker, 10+ years working in prisons and in the criminal justice system

    Nicola Sears

    Research Assistant. A trained psychotherapist, worked on an EU-funded research project looking at resilience and adolescent mental health.