Lockdown Reflections and Introducing Inside Job

For the last few months we’ve all become familiar with what lockdown and self-isolation looks like. Empty streets, job losses, a total reliance on technology for social interaction. For many of us, self-isolation at home means becoming well acquainted with the fridge and getting on the nerves of family/partners/housemates. For people in prison, lockdown is a familiar word. But lockdown for them has been very different to how it has been for most of us. Lockdown in most prisons means spending 23 hours a day in a cell. Self-isolation means solitary confinement in said cell. In our last blog post, Ophrys gives us a glimpse into how the guys in HMP Rye Hill have been coping. Visitation restrictions for families have been slowly easing up in the last few weeks, but we are still unable to bring our choirs together for face-to-face rehearsals.

Because of these restrictions, we’ve been searching for other ways to keep Choir going, if not in the physical sense. During lockdown, we’ve sent in CDs and song books that people can practice with, recorded uplifting videos like this one Gina and Pete created for prison TV, and we’re even starting a remote song-writing programme. We may not be able to sing together yet, but the spirit of Choirs Beating Time lives on. On the Employment side, we’ve not been able to run UpStart, our Business Start-Up initiative, as we planned, but we’ve sent in workbooks while we wait to go back into prisons. Despite these setbacks, we’ve taken this opportunity to really focus on our other employment initiative, Inside Job.

A blessing in disguise – expanding Inside Job

Lockdown has allowed us to reflect on how we can best help people serving sentences. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many job losses over the last few months, and with a recession looming, securing employment is only going to get more difficult, especially for people leaving prison. Only 25% of people find work when they leave prison (pre-2020 statistics). Around 70,000 people are released each year – that’s 52,500 jobless people, who are all twice as likely to reoffend than those with a job.

Inside Job was an idea conceived by Jonathan on an UpStart programme. It finds jobs for people while they are serving their sentences, identifying best candidates by using talented, motivated and well respected prisoners (Insiders). Jonathan saw that many of the guys in prison wanted to work, but did not believe anyone would want to employ someone with a conviction. He also realised that many people in prison do not trust official agencies to help them, but they would trust the Insiders. Insiders have a shared experience of prison and understand how important it is to talk straight and not let people down. Jonathan saw that there was a need and an opportunity and thus Inside Job was born. Jonathan is Co-Director of Inside Job (for which he receives no remuneration) and an Insider.

First, we identify employers with jobs they are prepared to offer to our candidates and build meaningful relationships with them. We then identify and prepare candidates using our Insider. The employer selects interviewees from the candidates we send, and comes into prison to interview in one sitting. When job offers are made, we work with the prison and the employee to ensure that everything is in place to start work on release. While Inside Job is a recruitment initiative, we do not charge recruitment fees. Instead, it offers employers an efficient, professional, no fee, recruitment process.

Focusing on Inside Job gives us a chance to help people and make a change while prisons are still closed to non-essential visits. Because of the effects of the pandemic, we anticipate the need to be greater than ever. Mass layoffs and significant reduction in working hours across industries means that many organisations have put their recruitment on hold. As a result, many recruitment consultants are being made redundant. As part of our initiative to expand Inside Job, we decided to work with a professional recruiter as a part of the Beating Time team. Enter Bally Nijjar.

Bally has been working in recruitment for the last 20 years and has worked for award winning consultancies throughout his career. Since 2010, Bally has been recruiting engineers and has placed hundreds of people into employment. He has fulfilled one-off business critical roles all the way up to teams of 20 engineers. In August 2020, Bally joined Beating Time as Co-Director of Inside Job. He is motivated to help people get back on track after leaving prison and return to their communities as contributing citizens. His goal is to get as many employers on board as we can and realise the huge benefit Inside Job candidates can bring to their teams: hard work, resilience, diversity and loyalty. With Bally’s experience, networks and enthusiasm, we are looking forward to expanding Inside Job’s reach. Bally is based in our Birmingham hub with Sally, our West Midlands Manager.