STELLA HAYES, BCAv
HMP Preston is a remand prison with approximately 850 prisoners at any one time, its inmates experience a mixture of emotions and can be feeling stressed, terrified, guilty and bereaved. Some prisoners turn to self-harm and a large percentage of prisoners have mental health and substance misuse issues. 25 years ago, Stella, then a young Samaritan armed only with her ID card for protection, spearheaded a Prison Visiting campaign, and alongside other colleagues from the Preston Branch, began visiting four local prisons believing that prisoners should have the opportunity to talk to a Samaritan and receive support just the same as the general public.
After four years the schemes were proving more prevalent throughout the country, so Stella and the rest of the team began to train ‘Listeners’. Stella has been key in the training of Listeners, and holds four-day courses three times a year in HMP Preston. Her work has not only benefitted the prisoners, but has also impacted on the Listeners themselves. Stella finds great satisfaction from seeing the men ‘blossom’ as they train, achieve new skills and gain self-worth from their work helping others.
The Listeners are now using their time in prison to good effect and their days have a purpose. Their new found understanding of others goes with them into the community at the end of their sentences. The Listener scheme has evolved and has been standardised nationally.
Stella is continuing her work with HMP Preston. Stella and the team go into the prison every Tuesday, to catch up with the Listeners, to check they are okay and give them the chance to offload.
Nominated by Joan Moncrief