Gavin Williams, a former inmate of Parc Prison in Bridgend spent 15 years in and out of custody and his spiralling substance abuse left his relationship with his family in tatters. But now, after receiving support from the prison’s Family Interventions Programme and the National Lottery-funded Invisible Walls project, Gavin is clean, has rebuilt bridges with his family and has even set up his own freelance art business:
When I first entered the prison I had never picked up a paintbrush in my life, but when I started to draw for my children as part of the programme, I discovered I had a talent for it. My paintings and murals are dotted all over the walls of the prison. As well as the project helping me find a new talent, continual support also helped me reconnect with my family. The team at Parc went out of their way to organise visits for me and talked to my family to tell them how well I was doing. They opened up a Family Intervention Unit with a family area and the visits were made possible for families to come into a less formal environment to talk to you.
They organised loads of different courses and programmes for me and my family. I had ongoing support for my substance misuse problems. One course showed us how what we were doing was having an impact on those we loved. That was a massive help to me and showed my family that I was trying and I was really serious about changing myself for the future. It really was a life-changing experience to go on that course. While in prison, I managed to secure a range of qualifications which is something I thought I would never do. I put my name forward for every course going and completed them all. The qualifications I got out of that was great to help me in what I wanted to do.
And then the Parc team helped me get involved with the Prince’s Trust when I left the prison which in turn enabled me to set up as a self-employed painter. I was up and running as a freelance artist in January this year. I do anything that people want me to draw or paint really. Business has been really good and I’ve had non-stop help from Parc since the day I was released.
Listen to a podcast interview with Gavin:
It’s mind-boggling when I look back at how far I’ve come. If it wasn’t for the support I received, I would probably be back in prison. I would never have had the opportunity to do what I’ve done and probably would have been in the same mess as I was in the first place. I’m clean, I’ve got my family back and I’ve got my own business, I couldn’t ask for more really.
Editor’s note: A total of £3,137,466 has been awarded to HMP and YOI Parc Prison in Bridgend to run its Invisible Walls project, which aims to work with offenders and their families during their sentence and after release to prevent reoffending and address other multiple and complex social issues.
Over the next four years, the project will work with prisoners, their families and their children through a package of intervention which includes specialist parenting and relationship programmes for the whole family, advice about family debt, training and education, housing advice and support, physical health and fitness and support in moving towards employment.