News: Celebrating Hidden Heroes Day

Published: 29 Sep 2020

News: Celebrating Hidden Heroes Day

Today marks Hidden Heroes Day, a moment organised by The Butler Trust to celebrate those working in prisons and probation and youth justice services. To highlight the occasion, we are showcasing the work of Churchill Fellows who have been taking action within the prison and justice sector during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Parole worker Margaret Dunne (CF 2008) works for the Parole Board and has been ensuring that oral hearings are still taking place during the Covid-19 outbreak. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, planned oral hearings which are usually conducted in prisons have not been able to happen. Margaret has worked to conduct these hearings by telephone call or via a confidential link to prevent a backlog from forming. Margaret has been drawing upon learnings from her Churchill Fellowship, where she explored treatment for drug-using offenders in the community and ways to assess prisoners' suitability for release.

Prison healthcare director Rachel Gibbs (CF 2019) has been putting measures in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 within Northern Ireland’s prisons. Working with the Public Health Agency, Rachel has helped to develop clear Covid-19 protocols and guidelines for those who work and live in prisons, and as a result, so far no one living in Northern Irish prisons has contracted Covid-19 inside. Rachel has also worked with the Northern Ireland Prison Service to come up with ideas to support the wellbeing of prisoners during the pandemic. This has included creating a bi-weekly newsletter for inmates, distributing ‘distraction packs’ with activities such as puzzles and colouring-in, running an art competition and operating a mobile library.

Youth organisation director Temi Mwale (CF 2017) has been providing increased advocacy and legal support for young people affected by the criminal justice system during the pandemic via her organisation 4Front Project. Many of the young people Temi works with have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis due to lockdown restrictions, school closures, increased police powers, family bereavement and anxiety amongst the prison population. Temi has been providing them with increased access to legal services, information to ensure they are aware of their rights, and increased advocacy in police stations, courts, prisons and local authority meetings. Temi received a Covid-19 Action Fund grant to support this work.

Churchill Fellow Temi Mwale has been providing increased advocacy and legal support for young people during the pandemic (above)

Charity founder Lynn Saunders (CF 2013) has been providing support to those leaving prison during lockdown via The Safer Living Foundation, the charity she co-founded as a result of her Churchill Fellowship. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many of the community agencies that the charity use to support those leaving prison are not operating at full capacity, resulting in a gap in services. Lynn and her team of staff and volunteers have been keeping in regular contact with those leaving prison to ensure that they have access to relevant information and food and clothing. This was particularly vital to those serving a long prison sentence who had few people in the community to support them on release.

Prison governor David Savage (CF 2020) has been leading his prison’s response to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. Working with public authorities and private companies, David has devised hygiene stations, implemented social distancing measures within an already tight space, and created protocols for isolation and shielding units. David’s prison recently received a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross, who advised David that the prison’s bespoke hygiene measures were the best they had encountered across Europe. David has also helped to organise virtual visits for inmates, including allowing them to partake in funerals and births and speak to ill relatives in hospital.

Churchill Fellow David Savage has been leading his prison’s response to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland (above)

Prison education quality manager Richard Wakelin (CF 2017) has been supporting young offenders with their education in prison throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. To ensure young people could continue their studies, Richard developed new learning resources that were delivered virtually to inmates via in-cell television, prison radio and phones. Richard has also been working with the young people to produce sketches and artwork to submit to a digital showcase at Tate Modern in November. He has been using findings gathered during his Churchill Fellowship, where he saw first-hand the benefits of using in-cell technology for learning.

Read Churchill Fellows’ findings on prison and justice reform 

Fellows' activities on Covid-19

Covid-19 Action Plan

Donate to our Covid-19 Action Fund